Most music fans won’t be comfortable immediately attending concerts and festivals when officials lift social distancing restrictions, a new Canadian survey has found. Only 22% of frequent concertgoers and 12% of the general population say they will attend concerts within a few weeks of their return.
The coronavirus pandemic has upended concert-going so much that 70% of people who regularly attended concerts and festivals before the COVID-19 pandemic would prefer at least a few months to return. Such hesitancy is “indicative it will take a long time for people to get comfortable,” says David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data, which performed the survey for Music Canada.
The live music business could lose customers indefinitely while trying to recover from the work stoppage. The Abacus Data survey found a budget-busting 26% of Canadians, and 7% of live music lovers, say they will probably never feel comfortable going to a concert again. The removal of 7–26% of concert attendees would have a damaging trickle-down effect: the promoter sells fewer tickets, artists receive lower guarantees and sell less merchandise, all while the venue is paid less by the promoter and generates less in food and beverage sales, etc.
At the same time, 93% of frequent concertgoers believe they will continue to see live music in the future. Separately, a Live Nation consumer survey found 90% of recent U.S. ticket buyers (within the last 12 months) are confident they will return to live music post-COVID-19. (The results were similar across markets: 92% in Mexico, 91% in Germany and the U.K., 89% in Australia and New Zealand, and 87% in Italy. A total of 8,037 fans were surveyed in eight countries.) The survey also found 91% of current ticket holders — someone with tickets to postponed concerts — across eight countries are still planning on attending their show.
Then again, both the Live Nation and Abacus Data surveys reveal the same problem: about 10% of concert goers believe they will probably never return to venues and festivals. If they’re lost, the adage that 20% of all concert tickets go unsold will be increased to 30% if people do not feel safe returning to a venue or festival location.
Separately, two surveys show many fans expect the promoter and venue to take certain safety precautions. Live Nation found 86% of recent ticket buyers want venues to increase cleaning and sanitizing and 85% of them want hand sanitizer stations placed throughout the venue; a recent MRC Data survey found 61% of respondents want hand sanitizer stations throughout a music venue. Fans also showed interest in creating distance from other fans (50% for MRC Data, 41% for Live Nation) and temperature checks at the venue entrance (35% for MRC Data, 32% for Live Nation).
Additionally, venues should consider that some fans could have contamination on their minds when at events. The Live Nation survey found many fans want closed beverage containers (36%), pre-packaged merchandise (18%) and only pre-packaged food (16%).
Regardless of how often a person attends concerts, they are unlikely to immediately return to venues and festivals once restrictions are lifted. The Abacus Data survey found that just 16% of Canadians will return to bar shows within a few weeks of opening. As venues get larger, the likelihood of attending live events declines: 14% for small venues, 11% for large venues and 11% for festivals. Music lovers — regular live attendees before COVID-19 — will return to live music faster but also prefer smaller venues: 30% of frequent concertgoers will return to bars within a few weeks while 18% of them will be equally quick to attend festivals.
A preference of an indoor venue to a festival seems counterintuitive given people are less likely to become infected outdoors, but a festival creates “images of swarms of people funneling in and out of spaces,” says Coletto.
“There’s a sense of control over my space” inside venues, especially those with seating, he adds.
Canadians are no different than Americans when it comes to eagerness for live music, but with one exception: they’re not clamoring to visit the United States. Half of Canadians surveyed said they will probably never go to a concert in the U.S. Another 43% of Canadian surveyed said they would go to the States for a concert in a few months or more. Among frequent concertgoers, 24% said they will never attend a U.S. concert while just 12% would do so immediately or within a few weeks.
“Venturing to the U.S. for anything is too much right now,” says Coletto.
While thought-provoking enough to merit the music industry’s attention, these findings are not etched in stone. None of the three surveys took into account skyrocketing unemployment and changes in personal income. Consumer sentiment will change as scientists’ knowledge about the coronavirus improves. And survey responses could change depending on the availability of a vaccine.
“We’re at the beginning,” notes Coletto. “People are starting to wrap their head around it.”