VARIANTS AND VARIABLES: As L.A. resumes indoor mask restrictions this weekend amid a surge of COVID variants—and these variants menace large areas of the country with low vaccination rates—we’re seeing a concomitant surge in anxiety among top managers, many of whose artists have bet on a strong finish to 2021. Start-stop-start-again tours with full crews can be devastating to the bottom line, even for treks with moderate production costs. Hopes for a robust conclusion to the 2021 live season are now in jeopardy.

Where tour dates are soft, we’re told, some deals are being renegotiated, as it was agreed prior to the reopening that the risk associated with live events would be shared between promoters and artist teams. Thus an artist’s guarantee, typically ironclad in the past, would now be subject to adjustment if ticket sales were below a certain threshold. We’re told these negotiations have been happening on a case-by-case basis. It’s important to bear in mind that shows are not insurable under the present uncertain circumstances, so the risks are greater.

All eyes are on sports, with crowds continuing to fill indoor and outdoor venues. The next two weeks should provide a vital gauge of fans’ appetites as we see how the walk-up business for big shed tours shapes up. False rumors this week that Lollapalooza was being cancelled, meanwhile, sent chills through the business. As we go to press, the sold-out Green Day/Fall Out Boy/Weezer date in Dallas is slated to be the first big stadium show of the summer. We’ll keep taking temperatures.

ASSET MANAGEMENT: As valuations escalate and massive deals proliferate, are more players considering either a public offering or a private cash-out? In any event, look for a couple of new players to surface in the catalog-acquisition game in the coming months—do they have the resources to compete with the giants? As for the majors, the AC/DC deal, coming on the heels of the Paul Simon pub payout, provides a clear look at how Jon Platt and Sony are responding to the catalog-acquisition landscape formed in large part by disruptors Mestel and Mercuriadis.

Speaking of large deals, the marketshare for Todd Moscowitz’s Alamo—recently acquired by Sony for a sizable chunk of change—has been the subject of considerable chatter in the grandstands. The share Alamo accrued during its run as part of the Interscope machine belongs to IGA this year, but all new consumption will be added to Sony’s share for the remainder of 2021. This as IGA goes wire to wire to lead the field in currents, overall and catalog at the halfway point; nobody’s going to overcome Janick and company’s lead as they blow well past 38m units.

THE JOIE TO COME: Despite speculation that Joie Manda might be hooking up with Mosco in some fashion, word has it that he’s setting up shop, hiring some key players and starting to sign acts as he continues to plot. Conversations with investors are believed to be ongoing as more than one major is said to be angling to sign his newco. Stay tuned.