In Planning Return, Why Don't We's Manager and Agent Say No Touring in 2021

Why Don't We
Pamela Littky

Why Don't We

Why Don't We is joining booking agency Artist Group International for worldwide representation in all areas as part of a deal brokered by AGI's founder and chairman Dennis Arfa and the group's longtime manager Randy Phillips. The band had previously been signed to UTA.

In making the shift, Phillips is putting the band's future into the hands of one of music's most experienced booking agents who, along with his son Jarred Arfa, have unparalleled experience booking arena and stadium shows for acts like Metallica, Def Leppard and Billy Joel. With the band's sophomore album debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart on Jan. 14, the group would be primed to hit the road in the ensuing month for its second world tour. Unfortunately, the continued spread of COVID-19 and the slow vaccination rollout in the U.S. has Phillips and Arfa thinking that large scale touring won't be able to return this year.

"I think anyone who thinks 2021 is a reality for touring or festivals is out of their mind. They're fooling themselves," says Phillips, who helped put together tour deals for Justin Bieber, Prince and Celine Dion as the former chief executive of AEG Live. "It's not just about the vaccinations and how slowly that's rolling out. It's the economy. Drive around town and there are so many 'for lease' signs in stores and so many restaurants that are closed. When are these businesses coming back?  When are these jobs coming back?"

Couple that with continued fears about the spread of the deadly virus, even by those that are vaccinated, and Phillips thinks a return to touring with packed arenas and sold out shows is not likely.

Arfa agreed, telling Billboard he thought the group was "really an arena or stadium act of the future" but said he doesn't think much can happen this year because of the virus. He added that until the sports leagues like Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association return to full capacity games.

"It's not realistic to tour concerts at half-capacity," says Arfa who says the economics of moving large scale tours across the country don't work unless tours can sell at least 85-90 percent of their tickets. He added that he doesn't think new tours will be seriously considered for booking until at least July once most of the population is vaccinated and the public begins to feel at ease that efforts to contain the virus are working.

"If there's touring in January 2022, you need herd immunity by June so that the playing field is okay in October and November at the latest. And that means the NBA and the NHL and the sporting teams are all running at full capacity. That's the reality," Arfa says.

"The worst thing for a tour like Why Don't We is uncertainty," added Phillips. "If the fans aren't sure about the future, or their parents are still out of their jobs, you can't go out on the road in that environment. It simply won't work."

Phillips said the band will likely record another album during their down time in 2021, collaborate with artists on the band's label Atlantic Records, host a few pay-per-view performances and continue to develop its merch business"

"Right now we're the number one merch store in the whole Warner Music Group," Phillips says. "They're great looking guys and girls love them.That's not going to change. We're not running away from that. But we will use this time to transition them from boy band to a modern band and extend the shelf life tremendously. It's killing them not to be able to go out on tour — they told me they miss their bus. Hopefully we will get them back on their bus soon."