DELTA’S DAWN: Just as it seemed we’d turned the corner on the pandemic, the Delta variant began cutting a swath through the nation. The live sector has responded to the radical uncertainty of the moment with real purpose—and a measure of defiance with respect to anti-mask and anti-vaxx politicians. Irving Azoff-managed the Eagles lay down the gauntlet by announcing they’d require proof of vaccination for attendees of their tour (and Dead & Company followed suit). Jay Marciano’s AEG Presents, meanwhile, also announced a vaxx requirement for most of its venues effective 10/1. Live Nation is supporting those of its acts that want to do the same.

The decision to cancel Jazz Fest in New Orleans seemed to be a big harbinger. AEG Presents’ move was clearly one that put the health of performers, biz professionals and attendees ahead of everything. It’s particularly tough given that ticket sales for the event—as with so many of this year’s festivals—have been brisk. (We note that Marciano’s decision to cancel just ahead of the 60-day deadline meant he wasn’t contractually obliged to issue the first 10% guarantee payment, but he did so anyway, noting it was the right thing to do after some pushback from artists.) But reports of COVID cases among attendees of Lollapalooza (not least members of the biz community) are a sobering reminder of the human stakes.

QUALIFIED IMMUNITY: Despite all the challenges, there are several very encouraging signs in the concert world. Shed tours are largely performing exceptionally well, as are more than a few road shows at indoor venues.

The Crush-driven Hella Mega Tour has been a solid stadium success thus far, as alternative rockers Green Day, Weezer and Fall Out Boy continue to deliver solidly to sizable crowds. At the other end of the spectrum, James Taylor’s arena and outdoor trek is also proving a significant draw.

With state and local governments in much of the country opting out of vaxx requirements, mask mandates and other COVID restrictions, artists are leading the way—and buildings are folding for fear of artist cancellations.

In states where proof-of-vaccination requirements and other such rules violate laws put in place by right-wing statehouses, insiders say, bands plan to go ahead with their restrictions and let the states sue. If courts decide against them, they’ll cancel. There are, after all, enough markets to support the tours without these dates. However it all shakes out, artists and their teams may well drive some positive change.

One well-placed source tells us about 80% of the artists in the marketplace are comfortable requiring masks, vaxx proof and/or a negative recent COVID test as a condition for entry to shows. Early signs suggest many audiences actually feel safer going to shows that impose substantive restrictions. All of this is a moving target, of course; stay tuned.