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IS U.S. TOURING COMING BACK
TOO SOON?

As U.S. officials begin to relax restrictions on wearing masks, new shows are being announced nearly every day; some are even scheduled to begin as early as this spring. But just as quickly as these new events seem to be popping up, some established festivals and tours are moving to 2022 due to concerns associated with Covid, leaving many would-be concertgoers to wonder what is really going on in the live music sector. The desire to see live music again and a craving for some form of normalcy has sparked brisk ticket sales across the board and across all genres and caused some to question whether the industry is pushing to open a tad too quickly.

Since ticket sales seem to be doing well everywhere—consumers are apparently gobbling up almost everything that is going on sale—those mounting festivals and tours in states with the most relaxed Covid restrictions, like Texas and Florida, are simply operating as if it’s business as usual. At the same time, Oregon and Michigan are both trending in the wrong direction with their caseloads, which certainly doesn’t bode well for routing tours. Who is going to insure these endeavors, and at what cost?

In fact, insurance has been a huge concern for the entire touring business since the pandemic began. Promoters have had difficulty securing coverage for Covid-related issues that may arise at a show or festival, while managers and artists cannot get their cancellation policies to cover illness related to the virus. It’s hard to imagine anyone risking the tremendous sums these tours and festivals generate without having some insurance in place.

On 4/29 the super-hot Machine Gun Kelly announced his fall My Downfall Tour, a 28-city trek that begins 9/9 in Minneapolis at The Armory and runs through 10/28 in Richmond, Va., with stops in N.Y. at Summerstage in Central Park (9/13) and Los Angeles at The Shrine (10/20). But also on 4/29, Justin Bieber decided to push his planned summer tour into 2022. The highly anticipated reunion tour of My Chemical Romance has been put on hold as well, as the emo faves postponed all 2021 dates to 2022. These postponements included pulling out of several festivals MCR was scheduled to headline, including Riot Fest in Chicago, which has decided to move forward 9/17-19 with Smashing Pumpkins, Run the JewelsPixies, Coheed and Cambria, Taking Back Sunday, Sublime with Rome, Dirty Heads and the Circle Jerks, among others. My Chem has confirmed Riot Fest 2022. Meanwhile, a reformed Genesis just announced that it will tour the U.S. in 2021 for the first time in 14 years. The Last Domino Tour, which will kick off in Chicago on 11/15, will play 14 dates. 

So, what’s going on here? Why are so many artists, agents and managers so gung-ho about getting shows up and out the door while others seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach? Managers and agents alike are quick to point out that indoor arenas and clubs have stricter Covid restrictions and they very well may remain more stringent than outdoor shows in many locales for some time. There also seem to be issues with capacity limitations; Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas postponed from 5/21-23 to 10/22-24 because of a change to Clark County reopening plans that requires 60% of its residents to be vaccinated before large-scale gatherings can take place. If promoters cannot sell the tickets necessary to pay headline artists’ guarantees, they cannot afford to present the shows. Some summer and fall headliners are getting millions per gig. One promoter said, “After canceling last year, and choosing to push the start of this year, if we don’t sell out at full capacity this year, we are in trouble.”

Cancellations and postponements are still plaguing the European landscape; another Euro fest, Denmark's Roskilde, canceled (for the second straight year) on 5/3.

With real estate drying up quickly in 2022, it seems many are coming back to fill holes in the remaining months of this year; Marc Anthony just announced an arena run in 24 cities from 8/27-12/18, while Luke Bryan will be playing 36 amphitheaters from 7/8-10/16. Carlos Santana is picking up his residency at the House of Blues in Las Vegas, announcing a return with 24 shows from 8/26-12/12. And rap superstar Travis Scott will bring his mammoth Astroworld Festival to his hometown of Houston for two days, 11/5-6. 

Putting shows on sale and hoping (while collecting money from ticket proceeds) appears to be the modus operandi, but so far we’ve had no festivals or major tours. Will we see some of each by June, July, August or September?

Crowd photo by Rahul Pandit from Pexels

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