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Neil Young Blasts Concerts as 'Super-Spreader Events' Amid COVID-19 Surge

Neil Young
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Neil Young performs on stage in Hyde Park on July 12, 2019 in London.

Neil Young shared his two cents on why the concert business needs to let its money-making efforts take a back seat to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The outspoken 75-year-old artist shared a new post, titled "Concerts and Covid," on his website Neil Young Archives Times-Contrarian this week, calling concerts "super-spreader events" and claiming their promoters responsible. He explained that he pulled out of Willie Nelson’s 2021 Farm Aid festival that's scheduled for September "for fear that unprotected children may become infected with Covid by folks who went to the show, caught the virus, had no symptoms and returned home to hug their kids or someone else's kids."

He commended fellow musician Garth Brooks for halting his live performances (the country legend canceled five shows on his stadium tour citing the surge of COVID cases) and wondered why others haven't followed suit, especially when one or multiple people from the crew have tested positive for COVID, which has been the case for Kiss, Korn, Fall Out Boy and more.

In recent weeks, cases of COVID-19 have surged across the United States due to the highly infectious Delta variant. According to the CDC, the current seven-day average of new cases is now at 142,000, with hospitalizations also on the increase.

"It will take the big promoters and managers/ agents to make the difference. If it's all about money, I think they should protect the people who are their livelihood," Young argued in his post. "The big promoters, if they had the awareness, could stop these shows. Without that, everyone just keeps going like everything is OK. It's not."

He claimed that Live Nation, AEG and the other major international concert promoters could shut down shows "if they could just forget about making money for a while." Live Nation, the world's biggest concert company, said earlier in August that all of its fully owned and operated venues and festivals will require all artists and fans to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to attend shows. The rule will be enforced starting Oct. 4. With the return of live music after a year-and-a-half-long pandemic pause, Live Nation experienced a 677.2% increase in revenue the prior-year period and a 98.2% improvement from the first quarter, according to the company's second quarter 2021 earnings report. 

Its biggest competitor, AEG, announced that it would require proof of vaccination for entry into its owned and operated clubs, theaters and festivals, which will go into effect on Oct. 1. Unlike Live Nation, AEG won't accept negative COVID tests as an alternative for entry. 

"They control much of the entertainment business. They hold the power to stop shows where thousands congregate and spread. It's money that keeps it going. Money that motivates the spreading. The big promoters are responsible for super spreaders," he wrote. "These giants of entertainment just renovated a lot of old venues and spent a lot of cash to do that. Now they can't stop selling tickets to pay for it. Money and business. That doesn't make this OK."

"Folks see concerts advertised and think it must be OK to go and mingle. It's not," he concluded. "These are super-spreader events, irresponsible Freedom Fests. We need Freedom to be safe. Not a bad example."

Billboard has reached out to Live Nation and AEG for comment.