With nearly all U.S. states under shelter-at-home orders and concert venues sitting empty, music fans show little hesitation to experiencing live music again. A survey by MRC Data found 59% of respondents are willing to attend a live event again within two months after the pandemic ends or a vaccine or treatment becomes available.
Among the survey’s findings:
• 29% of respondents would attend a live event less than one month after the pandemic passes or a vaccine or treatment is available.
• 21% of people would return to live events after five or more months.
• 2% of respondents would never again attend a live event.
A vaccine “that can be used in a mass vaccination campaign” would take 12-18 months to develop but an experimental vaccine safe for limited trials could be ready within months, Marian Wentworth, president and CEO of Management Sciences for Health, recently told The Guardian. People could return to a level of normalcy before a vaccine is widely available: going to work, attending school, opening retail stores, all with social distancing guidelines. But large gatherings such as music concerts and sports events might not be allowed.
In contrast to a youthful, “you only live once” attitude, younger consumers were more likely than the general population to indicate they will never attend a live event — 7% of teens and 3% of millennials.
But teens are also the most eager to attend live events, with 53% saying they would attend a live event within a month compared to 25% of millennials and 29% of the general population. And 38% of teens are willing to attend an event with 500 or more people. In contrast, 49% of millennials prefer crowds under 100 people.
MRC Data — formerly known as Nielsen Music until acquired by Billboard’s parent company, Valence Media — surveyed 945 people aged 13 and over who had attended a live event in the previous 12 months. MRC Data carried out the survey from March 25 through March 29.
At the time, 65% of respondents had self-isolated to their homes and surrounding areas and 70% had maintained distance from others.
MRC Data’s inquiry can be approached from a different angle: how many people would attend a live event before a vaccine is available. A new survey by Seton Hall University found 72% of Americans said they would not attend games without a vaccination. Only 13% of respondents said they would feel safe attending a game as they did before the pandemic.
An 18-month timeline isn’t unthinkable. Zeke Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives and director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, told The New York Times Magazine that large-scale gatherings such as concerts and sporting events would not return until “fall 2021 at the earliest.”
Of course, nobody can say when a pandemic ends. Social distancing practices could remain well after shelter-in-place orders are lifted. Experts believe a second wave of infections is likely to happen when social distancing restrictions are eventually lifted. What’s more, some experts believe the U.S. will have rolling shelter-in-place rules for the next 18 months.
And concerts could quicken additional outbreaks: just because a vaccine is available doesn’t mean all concert attendees would be vaccinated. Even if a treatment were available, an infected concertgoer would still need medical treatment, a problematic outcome given many people will be unemployed, uninsured or both. And short of requiring proof of vaccination for admission to a venue, a promoter would have no way of knowing which concertgoers pose a danger to others.
The U.S. could look at China as a model for “the new normal,” Bill Gates said in an April 7 interview with PBS Newshour. “They are sending people back to work, but they’re wearing masks. They’re checking temperatures. They’re not doing large sporting events. And so they have been able to avoid a large rebound.”
But the thrust of the survey’s findings remain: nearly all people — to the tune of 98% — are willing to leave their homes when this is over and trade their computer speakers for a booming P.A. system.