The face of society has been fundamentally altered by COVID-19. In this newfound era of social distancing, it feels like everything has changed. On a cultural level, the adjustments we all face are still ongoing. As we progress into this new normal, it will be important for us to collectively reevaluate the core nature of live performances. Here’s a speculative glimpse of what we can expect regarding the future of entertainment industries that rely on in-person attendance:
Why are Live Events Inaccessible Right Now?
Currently, the practice of assembling into large groups can pose a threat to effective quarantining principles. As it stands, there are widespread fears that coronavirus cases could spike if we simply returned to business as usual. Thus, it is time for us to consider alternate approaches for sporting events, concerts and festivals. There are plenty of unknown variables to consider in the weeks and months ahead, so no one knows precisely what the future will hold. Still, we have a general idea of how the picture might look.
Redefining Ticketing and Touring Practices
General admission sales might seem less favorable after COVID-19, and the implementation of assigned seating may see an uptick. Masks might become commonplace for attendees, and they may even be mandated to gain entrance. Since this is uncharted territory for everyone, there will be a lot of trial-and-error involved. Venues are expected to employ additional cleaning crews to disinfect and sterilize public areas on a nightly basis.
Reducing the Scale of Operations
Touring professionals have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, and there are concerns that laid-off members of road crews will not be returning to the industry once all the dust has settled. A lot of talented workers are jumping ship, and it’s difficult to incentivize their return without ensuring proper safeguards and benefits. Plenty of outlets are planning to scale back their organizations. A minimalistic approach is more economical while also mitigating the potential for any viral spread.
Choosing Concert Halls Over Arenas and Stadiums
Smaller venues might witness a resurgence in popularity, and big names may pursue more intimate settings than they have previously. Reduced crowd sizes should make the situation easier to monitor, and fostering a sense of exclusivity via limited access can help performers recoup some of their lost profits. Slightly higher prices will foster a far more personal experience, and miniature residencies can be expected.
The Live Music Dam Will Break Soon
2021 is already shaping up to be an epic year for touring. Countless musical acts have postponed their shows until next year, and original ticket sales are being honored for the upcoming events. Meanwhile, 2020 is undoubtedly becoming the year of the live-stream. Live music festivals are basically a coronavirus nightmare, but promoters could start selling tickets for online broadcasts featuring similar line-ups. Still, the late-night silence is absolutely deafening this year.
The Recording Industry is Picking Up
In lieu of their regularly scheduled concerts, a lot of performers are hitting the studios instead. 2020 is turning into a great year for creative output among artists who are laying low. The idea is that we will have tons of new masterpieces ready to be performed on the road by next year. Call it the coronavirus cocoon. We will all emerge from this hibernation sooner or later to show what we’ve been concocting behind the scenes.
What About Live Competitions?
Sports were hit hard and fast by COVID-19. The NBA’s cancellation of the basketball season marked a turning point in public awareness of the pandemic. The NCAA’s absence of March Madness created its own kind of March madness for disappointed fans. In international terms, the biggest loss occurred when Japan reluctantly announced that the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been postponed until July 23rd, 2021. Training schedules have been thrown into disarray, and many athletes are being unfairly denied their shot at the world stage. As such, next year will feature some long-awaited redemption arcs.
Restructuring the Yearly Sports Seasons
There are plenty of proposals to bring games back without fans in the stadiums; unfortunately, this dynamic could have a tremendous impact on the games themselves. Home-field advantage would be practically non-existent. Since local fans might not be able to attend exhibitions anyway, some insiders are speculating that all matches could be held in the same spot. It would take a lot of organization to contain the entire NFL or NBA within a single region, but these brands definitely have the resources to innovate. Hawaii has been considered as neutral territory for league-wide games to be held; however, entire athletic organizations would need to stay sequestered together throughout the season. Any breaches of protocol that might cause exposure to the contagion would result in required self-quarantining. In addition to players, this rule would apply to complete coaching staffs.
The Curtain Call for Drama and Comedy
In these surreal times, even Broadway is shuttered. The world of theater is particularly imperiled by this pandemic. Because the stage has always been a distinct alternative to the screen, it’s hard to imagine these productions shifting their focus to internet audiences. The effort would raise costs while procuring a reduced product. Crowd connections are integral to their craft. Live events may be going digital, but this field will likely show serious resistance to taping their work.
Engagement in the Coronavirus Era
Ultimately, society’s approach to fully reopening will rely on the mass-scale production of a workable vaccine. Until we have established some sense of immunity over the virus, uncertainty will continue to loom for all of us. The unpredictable economic picture will also play a major role in determining the viability of live entertainment. It’s hard to set aside cash for a live event when your family needs to eat. On the other hand, some individuals who weathered the storm unscathed might treat their stimulus funds like expendable income, which could help facilitate the revival of theater and sports down the line. In contrast, it is estimated that fans will be taking up the offer for refunds on rescheduled tour dates. Every dollar counts when unemployment is reaching rates unseen since the Great Depression. Still, in one form or another, the show must go on.