Like many businesses, the live music industry has taken a big hit from the coronavirus pandemic — to the tune of $5 billion, some analysts predict. As music festivals including Coachella and SXSW and major artists’ national tours — ranging from The Rolling Stones to Pearl Jam — are being cancelled or postponed (most to 2021), the $26 billion global live events industry is struggling to figure out how to survive.
The two biggest live-entertainment companies, Live Nation Entertainment and AEG, have been greatly impacted — with the former (which owns Ticketmaster) reporting a 25% drop in concert revenue for just Q1 2020. Smaller entities are even less equipped to survive the financial fallout, which may put them out of business.
And let’s not forget about the crews behind the scenes — tour managers, soundboard operators, equipment techs, venue employees, etc. These individuals, many of whom are independent contractors, are likely to be the hardest hit because they may not be earning any salary without tour income. (If you’d like to help this last group, Live Nation has created Crew Nation, a relief fund for live music crews. The company will match your donations up to $5 million.)
Locally, on May 14 Wonderfront announced that it postponed its event to 2021 “to align with the recent State of California strict guidelines for the reopening of large concert events.” Meanwhile, the jury is still out on KAABOO. Scheduled for Sept. 18-20 at its new Petco Park location, the fest is currently planning to proceed while remaining “attentive as new circumstances may develop,” according to its website.
Most perplexing is the future of the CRSSD Festival’s fall edition, earmarked for Sept. 26-27. The event’s site only addresses the fact that two people who attended the sold-out March edition tested positive for coronavirus, but it doesn’t offer any details about the upcoming event.
Another cultural icon, the Del Mar Fairgrounds, which is host to many music performances, particularly during the San Diego County Fair’s summer run, is on the brink of permanent closure. Without the fair and other seasonal events, including its popular horse racing, the 84-year old landmark won’t have the necessary funds to continue operation. As a result, it is asking San Diegans to voice their concerns to government officials so the fairgrounds can receive $20 million in emergency relief funding from the State of California.
Live music lovers can also show their support of small local clubs by participating in the National Independent Venue Association’s #SaveOurStages campaign. More than 1,200 independent venues and promoters from across the country — including Music Box, Belly Up, Casbah and Soda Bar — have banded together and joined the organization, which asks fans to complete a simple email form making congressional leaders aware that these intimate venues need federal assistance to survive the COVID-19 crisis and continue providing their much-needed service to the community. Take action and let your voice be heard.
This is the first in a series on the toll the coronavirus pandemic is having on the music industry. The next will look at the innovative ways the music industry is aiming to rebound from COVID-19, including livestreamed shows, VR performances and drive-in concerts.
Donovan Roche, a veteran music journalist of more than 34 years, is an avid concert-goer who attends a different music festival each year. He’s hoping 2020 is no exception