Concert Promoters Give Vaccine Distribution Efforts a Shot In the Arm

Sergio Cortese/Bizarro Entertainment

An Elvis tribute artist performed at Juan Pablo II Park Vaccination Center in Santiago, Chile.

A few live companies are using their expertise to distribute COVID-19 vaccinations, including Chile's top promoter and the producer of Tomorrowland.

Alfredo Alonso, the entertainment director for Chile's biggest concert promoter, Bizarro Entertainment, was considering other ways to bring in money during the pandemic when he saw Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino's Jan. 16 Instagram post: "If the live event industry was tasked with vaccination distribution we would have it done in a weekend, sold T-shirts and beer and a meet n greet with Fauci."

Alonso took this to heart. "We have the know-how to put together massive events," he says, "so why not run massive vaccination sites?"

Since February, Bizarro has worked under contract with local governments across Chile to coordinate vaccination efforts at four sites, including La Florida stadium in Santiago, overseeing nonmedical logistics like crowd management, catering and parking. It has even introduced production elements more common at concerts, including live music in waiting areas and novelty proof-of-vaccine "diplomas." Averaging 15,000 shots a day across all four sites, Bizarro has helped vaccinate nearly 1 million people — roughly 5% of the country's population. (Chile is third in per capita vaccinations worldwide, according to Oxford University.) The company has also been able to hire back about 500 employees and musicians who lost work during the pandemic.

"We took everything we know," says Alonso, "and applied it to the vaccination process."

He's not the only one. In Niel, Belgium, the producers of the Tomorrowland festival have been running crowd management at a vaccination center; and in Vallejo, Calif., independent promoter Hammond Entertainment has been managing a site since February for Kaiser Permanente, for which Hammond regularly promotes charity events. Owner Bill Hammond says he now has 180 employees to coordinate the administration of 1,500 to 4,400 vaccination shots per week, with 85,000 vaccinations administered so far.

"We know how to build an operation," he says. "Logistics are 90% of my work anyway. That's what we do."

Alonso says touring executives in other countries have reached out to him for advice on how to set up similar projects but, so far, those ideas have not materialized. In the United States, a group of industry leaders including Live Nation, AEG, Oak View Group and the National Independent Venue Association sent a Jan. 26 letter to President Joe Biden offering to help but didn't book the gig.

Sergio Cortese/Bizarro Entertainment
Staff members handed out water to patients at Juan Pablo II Vaccination Center.

Additional reporting by Taylor Mims.

A version of this story originally appeared in the April 24, 2021 issue of Billboard.