Touring in 2020 Isn’t Completely Out of the Question

Movie theaters in Texas and Georgia, which are being allowed to reopen at 25% capacity, are saying “no” until more safety guidelines are in place and they have a product the masses want to see. What might that portend for the live music?

We’re hearing stadium operators remain bullish on certain large-scale concerts, among them Garth Brooks’ June stadium dates in North Carolina and Oho, and Kenny Chesney’s tour opener on 5/30 at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Stadium. Will fans say “Too soon”?

As summer approaches, it’s looking more and more like no national tours will get started until July, and even then, an increasing number of booking agents are studying the possibility of having artists do one-offs like Brooks—he’s scheduled to play Charlotte, N.C.’s Bank of America Stadium on 6/13, Cincinnati on 6/27 and Las Vegas on 8/22.

Chatter over the last two months has focused on how likely tours are going “Swiss cheese”—biz jargon for “full of holes”—and that’s now a given. As one 2020 show/tour after another is being renegotiated, any show that was on sale and is not yet at a break-even point is being scrapped.

The financial reality check going on between agents, managers and promoters suggests that the shows that do get out on the road will be stripped-down affairs with as few moving parts as possible. On one hand, that could favor a heritage rock band that relies on summer touring revenue to remain solvent and a fanbase looking to get out of the house and escape into nostalgia. On the other, it could also favor young hip-hop and pop stars whose fans are in their teens and 20s and are more likely to have little problem with assembling in crowds.

If Congress moves quickly on legislation to block lawsuits regarding blame assessment in the spread of COVID-19, that, too, opens a door for promoters who might otherwise choose to move cautiously without health-testing measures in place at venues or a vaccine on the market.

It’s highly likely that if there is any major concert activity in the late summer/early fall, it will be concentrated in
the South and Southwest.

If an act could get on the road in August and play through Halloween, where might they go? As we look over the landscape, with 18 states “open” to some degree as of 5/1 and another six easing rules this week, and chat with managers and bookers, the most appealing venues are out-of-doors and have significant capacity that, even cut down, could still work commercially for an artist and a promoter.

It’s highly likely that if there is any major concert activity in the late summer/early fall, it will be concentrated in the South and Southwest to take advantage of the weather and, in many cases, the political winds that favor the opening of businesses. As it stands in late April, the official tallies of cases are in Northern states that, generally speaking, stop presenting outdoor shows by mid-September.

If the Garth Brooks shows go off without a hitch, Cincinnati or Charlotte, N.C., become attractive starting points from which acts could work their way south to Alpharetta, Ga., Alabama, Mississippi and/or Arkansas.

Florida, with a population that can’t resist going to the beach regardless of government orders, has no shortage of venues that could become concert hotspots in September-October. Working their way westward, tours could include stops in three major Texas markets: Dallas, Austin and Houston. From there, acts could hit Albuquerque, N.M., and Phoenix or head north to already open Colorado or Salt Lake City. From there, it’s off to Eastern Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

Cinema operators have their fingers crossed that a new normal will be in place by 7/17, when the season’s first potential blockbuster, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, is scheduled to open. Provided that date holds, America’s response could give a strong signal about how the concert business will be able to move forward.

Riverbend Music Center, Cincinnati (20,000 capacity)
PNC Music Pavilion, Charlotte, N.C. (19,000)
Ameris Bank Amphitheatre, Alpharetta, Ga. (12,500)
Oak Mountain Amphitheatre, Birmingham, Ala., (10,500)
Wharf Amphitheatre, Orange Beach, Ala. (10,000)
Bank Plus Amp at Snowden Grove, Southaven, Miss. (11,000)
Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion, Rogers, Ark. (9,500)
iThink Financial Amphitheatre, West Palm Beach, Fla. (20,000)
MidFloridaCreditUnion Amphitheatre, Tampa, Fla. (20,000)
Dailys Place, Jacksonville, Fla. (5,000)
Woods Pavilion, Houston (16,500)
Dos Equis Pavilion, Dallas (20,000)
Germania Insurance Amphitheatre, Austin (14,000)
Isleta Amphitheatre, Albuquerque, N.M. (15,000)
Ak-Chin Pavilion, Phoenix (20,000)
Fiddlers Green Amphitheatre, Denver (18,000)
Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Denver (9,500)
Usana Amphitheatre, Salt Lake City (18,000)
Gorge Amphitheatre, George, Wash. (27,000)
Les Schwab Amphitheatre, Bend, Ore. (8,000)
Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, Calif. (22,500)