With no set time table of when live shows and festivals will resume, it’s hard to imagine what the “new normal” of the live music industry will look like post the COVID-19 shut down.
“We’re driving forward in total darkness” Phil Rodriguez, CEO of Move Concerts, says during the LAMC’s The Future of Touring Panel. “No one knows what’s ahead of us.”
With a few parts of the world re-opening gradually and businesses like restaurants, gyms and museums slowly getting back to business, for the live music industry, it’s not so clear when things will go back to normal or if they ever will. In an effort to try to understand what the reality is and the uncertainty surrounding the live industry, LAMC brought together four touring executives to discuss what’s ahead and what festivals/concerts will look like once live music resumes.
The panel, which took place today (June 11), was moderated by Andy Wood (Como No), with Rodriguez, Jordi Puig (OCESA) and Sebastian De la Barra (Lotus Producciones) on the panel.
Below, read the panelists answers to three critical questions asked during the one-hour discussion.
What actions have you taken so far and how do you see next year panning?
Rodriguez: We moved every single show we had this year to next year. Quite frankly, everyone is driving in the dark. No one knows what’s ahead of us. What’s going to be the economic reality? I think South America is very resilient because we have been through so many things whether it’s politics, devaluation, riots. When people talk about the new normal, it’s hard to visualize the new normal in what we do. For me to envision a concert with masks on and social distancing it’s hard for me to imagine and it doesn’t sink in. And, to do a show with 20 percent capacity, the numbers don’t add up. We have to scratch way back to where we were. We’re driving forward in total darkness.
De la Barra: We are in a similar situation in Chile. We are maybe the last hope for the live music industry and we still have some dates for late in November but in the end, we are watching and coming up with options weekly trying to understand where this will go. We are now facing the worst part of the COVID so we are trying to understand. There’s some hope for the end of the year. We hope that early 2021 will be open for business. The economic impact is so big. This has to stop and we have to go back to normal.
Puig: In Mexico, we were lucky to be able to have the Viva Latino festival in March and it was the last massive festival not only in Mexico but also in Latin America. It was a difficult decision and a tough week but officials gave us permission and we brought 120,000 people together. Now, there’s a lot of uncertainty of what will happen this year. Everything changes daily. Our industry is one of the last ones. It’s frustrating because it’s the last item of the list Personally, I don’t see a different way to see the live music business. Only to improve it. It’s difficult to recreate this magic that happens when an artist is in front of thousands of people.
Rodriguez: Every projection, every piece of information keeps changing. This is mixed up with politics and it’s a medical situation, political and economic situation and it doesn’t help us see clearly of what we have to do. We’re going to end up with stuff that will be impose on us that may end up being silly but it’ll be imposed on us.
Has the current situation inspired new ideas? Anything good you can take from this?
De la Barra: There’s a mapping situation and everyone is speculating how to re-open. But nobody is talking about our industry and we’ll be the last ones to re-open. Right now, we’ve been thinking what arenas can re-open for 30-40 percent capacity but that doesn’t really work for our business model. We just have to wait a few months and see how Europe will operate and then how this will hit South America. Every one is doing a streaming but then you get bored and people are waiting for this massive comeback. Experts aren’t talking about our industry, we’re not a priority.
Puig: I do believe we should consider and explore this alternative of the streaming world. We can’t forget that what we do is entertainment outside of the house and all these digital streaming situations is something we should consider because we have a commitment with the audience and obviously sponsorship. It’s pretty difficult to think that streaming is something that can substitute the entertainment live industry. I just think it’s a matter of waiting and get back to how we were or better.
What are things that will be done differently moving forward?
De la Barra: We’ve been trying to demonstrate that we are important for the economy and we have an impact in Chile with a lot of jobs. We’re trying to think of how we can take advantage of the gaming industry specially to connect with the younger audience. We might see some sort of integration of the digital world to participate in this live festival event.
Puig: I completely agree that the day-by-day of this business demands your attention sometimes you’re not capable to see different opportunities. These times are a good opportunity to see and improve. It’s a moment to have a better place for all the sanitation stations and the cleaning in a big festival. More places to wash hands. It’s a good moment to think and when we come back, we can make things better. We now realize how vulnerable people that work in the music industry are. Most are freelancers and there isn’t exactly a union and we need to think what happens with these people [if anything like this happens again]. If they don’t have a show, they don’t have an income. It’s tough to see all the people that work in music, the clock is ticking. They don’t have anything to do.