WHAT WILL THEY LOOK LIKE?
Picture this: it’s January of 2020 and you have just received tickets to a Harry Styles concert as a holiday gift. You spend the next few weeks planning outfits, religiously listening to Fine Line, imagining what it’s like to breathe the same air as your favorite ex-One Direction crooner. Then, almost overnight, the worst-case scenario surfaces: COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on local concerts, music festivals, and world tours alike. As we learn to navigate a life of social distancing, masks, and hand sanitizers galore, we can’t help but wonder: “What will our concerts look like in the coming weeks, months, and years?”
Most artists were forced to get creative in the wake of canceled tours and appearances. Livestream concerts, Zoom jam sessions, and homemade music videos are a few of the ways artists are connecting with fans that correspond with CDC guidelines. Watching Morgan Wallen pluck a guitar in his living room or Ariana Grande and her boyfriend slow dance in the “Stuck with U” collaboration video with Justin Bieber are both intimate takes on the stripped-down reality of current music. Thanks to the internet and social media, our favorite musicians have worked to make themselves available to their fans in a way that has never been done before. With that said, there is something inherently special about live concerts; whether it be the clothes, the atmosphere, the fan camaraderie, or the maxed-out speakers, a live performance is a unique life experience. And no one is quite ready to give that up just yet.
The most sought-after musical performances of the year were canceled and rescheduled in response to the Coronavirus pandemic – think Bonnaroo, the Alicia Keys More Myself tour, Lollapalooza, and dozens more. Considering Coachella’s 2019 headcount was just shy of 100,000 guests and the average stadium seats about 70,000, social distancing would be challenging to enforce. Industry professionals are exploring the idea with risks in mind. Karly Tuckness, co-founder of Four Leaf Productions, told USA Today that “precautions in the short term… [include] hand-washing and sanitizer stations, [and] a requirement that attendees wear masks and temperature checks at gates.” She goes on to emphasize how distancing attendees pose a major problem and suggests that venues may ultimately result in reducing capacity or leaving empty seats around guests. Overall, it seems as though concert halls, arenas, and venues are preparing for next year’s concert surge on a learn-as-we-go basis; as information regarding COVID-19 changes, their plans adapt accordingly.
Though it may seem far-fetched, there is a big push to stick to rescheduled 2021 tours and performances. Of course, it would be great from a fan standpoint; after bouts of quarantine and social distancing, a stadium concert with friends sounds like a dream come true. However, the real push is coming from the thousands of artists, venue staff, managers, band members, marketing professionals, sound technicians, merchandisers, and others who have felt a tremendous financial, social, and mental deficit in the aftermath of Coronavirus. As much as we want to attend the events we have been so looking forward to, there are also plenty of people who need us to attend. As we approach the new year, we can only expect to be further informed upon if, how, and when we will return to concerts after Corona.