We could not use our car, it was nowhere to park. The large parking ground remained opened only for VIP ticket holders. Yet at the entrance to the stadium everything went smooth. Almost. We lined one after another, with 2 meter enforced distancing, and passed the tourniquets. My friend failed to provide her vaccination QR code and was not allowed to enter. The guards took her aside, hopefully for a testing on spot. We passed through the gate and were ushered to our private seating platform. Hundred or two similar raised platforms were scattered on the stadium, properly distanced and not connected.



Well, this could be a report from a visit to a rock concert in near future. If there are some rock concerts in near future. A similar concept was already tested last summer – from 500 raised metal platforms some 2500 fans, grouped by five, watched musician Sam Fender in Gosforth Park Arena in Newcastle, UK 1)

A concert in the kitchen

Live shows are out of our lives for over a year, with some rather intimate gigs last summer to be an exceptions. Initially, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, many artists tried to reach their fans through different online platforms and streams. It was a partisan way of doing things, improvised stages appeared in musicians’ bathrooms, living rooms and backyards, illegal concerts were organized. However, compared to proper touring there were no or just pocket money in such a business model.

“At first, there was a level of engagement with people just doing it a bit of DIY style, sitting on a chair in their kitchen plucking away. But I think fans got a bit tired of that, and of artists not really putting a lot of thought into it,” explains Music for Nations head Julie Weir.2)

It is quite understandable as streaming events can hardly ever replace the live concert, the live experience. And it is like in both direction – fans crave for sharing the excitement with their peers, they want to have a chat, a beer, they want to feel decibels and the electric charge in the stadium full of people, have the collective experience. Even travelling there is a part of the experience, as well as post event partying. And the same held true for artists – some of them toured their whole lives and a living room lockdown is like a prison, with no contact with cheering fans and with the lights shut down.

The luxury of touring

The global entertainment business lost billions in 2020 and will be even more impacted in 2021. It is not only about the ticket sales – there are massive money spent behind the stage, in sponsorships or merchandise. And there is still the biggest question hanging in the air: where the stadiums and concert halls will reopen?

There was an article3) published in Rolling Stone magazine that captures some major problems connected to reopening. The unused venue capacity is one of them. Often filling a venue at as high as 80% does not automatically guarantee profitability of the show. With distancing and enforced safety measures the 10,000 capacity may be filled with perhaps max 500 people which in turn will financially inhibit some performances. As a paradox, the bigger the artist and the scene, the worse is this concert economy for building the stage, lights and effects will be done for a handful of people in the auditorium. One solution is to drastically increase the price of tickets. I expect there will be a lot of sympathy with artists initially and fans will be willing to pay extras, but will this involuntary subsidizing continue for over 2-3 months?

Food and drinks are another area of concern. No way the fans could circulate around the venue, the food and drinks will have to be either preordered to seats (yes, seats, no crowds in front of the podium) or they may be banned completely.



Safety first

The health safety of artists and fans is a crucial moment in possible reopening of concert venues. Henry Cárdenas, CEO of the Cárdenas Marketing Network, says of some of his biggest artists: “If they know five, seven thousand people [in the audience] could be without the vaccine, they’re not gonna go on stage.”

Ticketmaster, the global ticket network has drafted some thoughts on the access protocol to concerts:

After purchasing a ticket for a concert, fans would need to verify that they have already been vaccinated or tested negative for coronavirus approximately 24 to 72 hours prior to the concert. The length of coverage a test would provide would be governed by regional health authorities — if attendees of a Friday night concert had to be tested 48 hours in advance, most could start the testing process the day before the event. If it was a 24-hour window, most people would likely be tested the same day of the event at a lab or a health clinic.

Once the test was complete, the fan would instruct the lab to deliver the results to their health pass company […]. If the tests were negative, or the fan was vaccinated, the health pass company would verify the attendee’s COVID-19 status to Ticketmaster, which would then issue the fan the credentials needed to access the event. If a fan tested positive or didn’t take a test to verify their status, they would not be granted access to the event. There are still many details to work out, but the goal of the program is for fans to take care of vaccines and testing prior to the concert and not show up hoping to be tested onsite.



All together now

According to Rolling Stone, whenever tours do come back in full force, the live music industry will face another trouble: artists all eager to hit the road at the same time. Competition has already been fierce for dates and venue holds as the industry has repeatedly re-adjusted over the past year - some people are already seeking holds for 2023. Those at the top are, understandably, the most confident about their chances of securing the tour itineraries they want, yet some of those also in their seventies or eighties and thus touring during pandemic exposes them to high personal health risks.

It is not clear whether the lockdowns will be eased or removed by end of 2021 but some venues are already pre-selling tickets anyway. Means that they have to be insured properly for the case there is a pandemic wave 3, 4 or 5.  However, the insurance policies are neither uniform nor clear and government action are not harmonized which makes any global agreement for a tour rather impossible.

What is the take-away? There is none actually. It is difficult to predict when and how the “new normal” situation would allow for reopening the concert business. Meanwhile, high-end audio industry announces record sales of electronics due to people spending their money on home entertainment as they can’t spend it on travelling and luxury things, while sitting confined at homes in their pyjamas. Audiophiles were always lone wolves so be happy that you have now the time to finally listen to your music library, before the virus is gone.



1) Amy Woodyatt, CNN, published 13th August 2020


3) When Will Live Music Return? December 22, 2020

Audiodrom (C) 2021


(C) Audiodrom 2021