The news has already been grim for the 2021 concert scene just one month into the new year. Glastonbury canceled. Coachella canceled. Stagecoach canceled.
Next? SXSW, set for March 16-20, has already announced it’s going online. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival has been bumped to October from its traditional late April-early May dates.
The die-hards are still holding out hope for a summer that is expected to see many 2020 holdovers take to the road, including Guns N’ Roses, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, Celine Dion, and KISS. But there’s skepticism abounding that any of those shows will be able to launch on time, if at all. And given the age of some of the acts, it’s possible that any further delays may mean they will never tour again.
This Week In Music: South By Southwest Cancellation Raises Future Issues For Live Events
Phillips was one of the early backers of Coachella, helping to grow it while at AEG. He believes the right move would have been to cancel it in 2020, although he understands the financial burden that would have imposed, thanks to sunk costs in marketing and other areas.
He thinks the brand will be back strongly in 2022, But as for shows that are set for later in 2021, it’s “all nonsense,” he says. “I don’t want to say I’m cynical, because this is an industry I grew up in and love. But no one has ever hit a brick wall like Covid.”
Phillips says he had to have “The Talk” with Why Don’t We when they wanted to hit the road this year.
“They want to go out so badly and tour, and I just said no. We’ll never be able to tour in 2021. Look how much trouble it is to inoculate people.” Add that in with the job lossses in the industry and the businesses that will never come back, not to mention consumer confidence in gatherings, and it’s a large mountain to climb, he says.
“We need a good nine months to a year to recover from the economic affect (of the pandemic),” Phillips says. “If you think that 125,000 will congregate in a stadium, the Garden, Staples Centers or Forum until they have total success with a vaccine, live entertainment won’t happen and sports with an audience won’t happen.”
“We are not writing off summer,” Gensler says. “There’s shows with varying capacities happening now and slated in the next few months, including Allman Betts Band, Billy Strings, Margo Price, Jimmie Allen, Jamey Johnson, Travis Tritt and others.
Gensler points to some encouraging numbers on new coronavirus cases.
“Hopefully. with new cases dropping (34% decrease over the last 14 days, according to the NYT) and increasing vaccinations, we can start ebbing our way back to even mores shows and eventually major festivals.”