When COVID-19 appeared, concerts and live entertainment events were among the first to be affected by the crisis. As cases continue to rise, the music industry is working diligently to make it through this cultural shock.With the event cancellations happening around the world, artists have had to shift their focus to an entirely new perspective.
Giuliano Rascan, a Canadian Producer/DJ, intended to travel to Los Angeles to perform and collaborate with various artists across the United States. However, all of these plans have been interrupted by the current international travel restrictions. Despite shows being postponed, Rascan continues to make music and prepare as much as possible for their return.
These consequences have also bled over to those working behind-the-scenes in the industry. “Like most people, I thought 2020 was gearing up to be the biggest year yet,” said Tony Merino of Bassrush Records. “Personally, I had shows planned in Australia, Paris, Asia and more, which have all been cancelled.”
Overcoming challenges with innovation
At the beginning of the pandemic, physical music sales declined dramatically compared to digital sales. Artists and event promoters have had to get creative in finding ways to share their music and continue generating revenue. Live streaming became significantly more popular, and many artists now use services such as Twitch and Instagram to perform and interact with fans. As a result of the uncertainty that remains in the music industry, many people have begun searching for a way to apply their skills to various industries. Brandon Iwahashi, a producer from San Diego, said that his biggest challenge this year was coming to terms with the fact that the world will never be the same as it once was. “Realizing the life I had set forth for myself could end at any moment, and adapting to the idea that I need to explore my options and have a backup plan prepared was really difficult,” he said.
Social distancing and virtual events
In an effort to continue bringing artists and fans together, many event promoters have hosted social distancing and drive-in events. Small groups are given their own designated viewing areas six feet apart from each other. While this is a sustainable model for live events during the social distancing era, it still needs improvement. Some of the challenges faced by producers and artists include finding venues that are willing to operate in accordance with local health guidelines and ensuring everybody feels safe attending these events. In addition, only a limited number of people may attend in order to comply. Unfortunately, lower-capacity and virtual events do not bring in as much revenue as live shows and will not be able to sustain the industry long-term. “Any event company right now is operating on a very small scale, trying to do as much as possible with the least amount of people involved,” Merino said.
Event producers are working optimistically with several shows planned for 2021, but concerts are not expected to return back to their normal state until 2022. Those in the industry predict concerts and festivals will come back slowly as we overcome the pandemic. The rise of these small-scale events allows new promoters to enter an industry that was previously controlled by only a handful of companies. Prior to COVID-19, companies such as Live Nation and Insomniac Events dominated the live event and entertainment market. However, as large-scale events continue to be postponed, the increase in demand for smaller events will allow independent promoters to enter the market with far less competition. Additionally, there will be artists that become inactive throughout quarantine and there will also be new talent that rises. This will result in plenty of opportunities for artists that are up and coming. The industry is anticipating drastic differences in live entertainment once the pandemic is brought under control, but artists and producers are eager for the world to return back to its normal state.
“What I’m really looking forward to is for the community to be healthy, and for everyone to be able to enjoy themselves again,” Iwahashi said. “There’s a lot of tension and anxiety among people right now that I hope will dial down soon.”