The show must go on, but at what cost? Rebound in live concerts tempered by COVID concerns. | Story

Live concerts by major radio players, a longtime promotional staple for music-based formats, appear to be in post-COVID comeback mode. But while the outlook for live shows for 2022 and beyond may be rosy for industry giants such as MSG Entertainment and Live Nation – the latter expects attendance for its shows in 2022 to exceed those pre-pandemic 2019 – it’s a different and more difficult situation for independent operators and smaller venues.

“A lot of things make it difficult to run a small business in this country right now, but especially a small business that requires people to be in close quarters, enjoying each other’s company,” Jim Brunberg, owner of the venues Portland concert, Oregon Revolution Hall and Mississippi Studios, tells The Hollywood Reporter. Both indoor locations are operating at approximately 60% of what they were in 2019 in terms of monthly gross revenue, as COVID continues to negatively impact Brunberg’s business at both ends: fans staying away in due to positive tests or uncertainty about seeing a show in a crowded indoor setting and band cancellations on a regular basis due to tour crew members contracting COVID.

Higher no-show rates, often in the 30% range at West Hollywood’s famed Troubadour nightclub, also mean that necessary revenue from food, drink and merchandise purchases has been seriously hit at these small halls, also suffering from staff shortages and the increase in the cost of goods and labour. Minneapolis club operator First Avenue has seen many shows technically sell out, though no-show rates continue to top pre-COVID 2019 levels. away,” CEO of First Avenue and National Independent Venue said Dayna Frank, chair of the association’s board of directors. “There is so much more to do, and the pain is very real.”

While many independent operators have relied on federal grants of up to $10 million to reopen, rehire staff and make COVID-related safety upgrades, the money hasn’t been enough for sites to deal with the ongoing pandemic and new variants, as well as ever-changing vaccination and masking requirements depending on the state. “It’s so hard to be able to compare what’s happening now to what happened before the shutdown, because the pieces just move differently,” said NIVA Director Reverend Moose.

Even gig industry titans have yet to see attendance return to normal. Live Nation reported that nearly 11 million fans attended shows in the first quarter of 2022 compared to 15 million in 2019, before the pandemic, although President and CEO Michael Rapino said “all leading indicators point to a double-digit fan attendance growth at our concerts. this year, compared to 2019” in the company’s earnings release. There’s similar optimism among some independents, like Manhattan’s City Winery, operating at nearly 80% of its pre-COVID revenue with no-show levels of up to 10-15%, even as positive cases rise. again. “Our downfall is not what we expected,” said Grace Blake, Director of Programming and NIVA Fellow. “I think people are just ready to hear live music.”

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