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NEAR TRUTHS: KEEP
THE FAITH, BABY

2020 and the pandemic are having an enormous impact on the story in the spring and all-important summer touring months, with tours and festivals postponed or canceled by the dozens. The impact on the big acts is mostly strategic, as they decide how to manage their businesses with new guarantees looming in their future as they move their tours to 2021. The Rapinos and Marcianos and their teams, along with top agents and managers, are looking to figure all this out. How can they sustain what’s been a financial windfall for the top-grossing artists over the last 20 years, as the live experience remains key for upper-demo fans with the means to buy top-tier packages?

The market has become this robust, in other words, because the kids who went to see Elton John at the Troubadour, the Bottom Line and the Fillmore back in the day grew up to become the adults buying premium packages to see Sir Elton in Vegas or at Madison Square Garden, Staples Center or Dodger Stadium. The experience is light-years away, for artist and audience, from those early shows. Ditto for Bon Jovi, Metallica, Coldplay, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and any other mega-act you’d care to name.

Thanks to the massive revenues they can look forward to, there’s not much downside to superstars postponing multi-arena or stadium tours and moving into 2021, especially if production hasn’t geared up yet. (Better to postpone than cancel until that ticket bundle kicks in.)

Could we see outdoor tours in late-August/September/October/ November throughout areas well outside the densely populated Top 10 markets that have the greatest concentration of COVID-19 cases? Can label teams, in conjunction with their new and developing artists and their managers, help fill in that missing piece? But new-artist development faces major challenges for the remainder of 2020. The streaming juggernaut, up 20% year over year, keeps providing the needed fuel —along with clear indicators (combined with fan engagement) as to which artists have the best chance to become more than just a hit song.

As major acts push album releases to coincide with their now-postponed tours, this is creating more space for the new acts on DSPs and radio playlists. For top-tier artists, new music functions primarily to hype the tour (and for those who don’t earn big streams, ticket bundles are essential for respectable first-week chart numbers). This has opened up a big lane for younger artists.

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