As COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread and people are on high alert, the music industry is being highly affected, especially on the live music side of things. Governments and health organizations have enacted measures to help slow the virus down but it’s still far from being under control.
Coronavirus’ effect on festivals
SXSW announced the cancellation of this year’s event just yesterday. The renowned Austin conference and festival joins a growing list of events cancelled due to the threat of COVID-19.
Prior to the SXSW cancellation, the City of Miami issued a directive canceling the Ultra Music Festival and Calle Ocho Festival scheduled to take place this month. The Edinburgh Harp Festival in Scotland scheduled for early April has also been cancelled. Travel restrictions in Asia also led to the postponement of the Korea Times Music Festival in Los Angeles.
Earl Sweatshirt performs at the SPIN party SXSW 2015 Austin, Texas. Image by Anna Hanks on Flickr
With many major festivals in March and April already cancelled, the fate of other large events in the coming months remains to be seen. Goldenvoice festivals Coachella and Stagecoach, are slated to take place next month. At this time, there have been no confirmed coronavirus cases in the area but the City of Indio released a statement that they are “actively monitoring input from local, state, and national health officials to assess the health risks of COVID-19 and update those risks to stakeholders.”
The festivals themselves have a strong incentive not to cancel, as many insurance policies don’t cover event cancellations due to communicable diseases. Events that do have such insurance are likely to still receive insurance benefits though in the case that an outside agency forces cancellation, rather than the festival choosing to cancel.
The effect on tours
Festivals aside, the spread of coronavirus has also led to the cancellation of many tour dates and even entire tours. So far, Avril Lavigne, Green Day, BTS, and Set It Off, among others, have cancelled (or plan to reschedule) upcoming tour dates in Asia.
In Europe, both France and Italy have imposed bans on large public gatherings. As a result, large shows in these countries are continuing to see cancellations. This includes Louis Tomlinson‘s Milan, Italy show scheduled for next week.
In the touring world, insurance policies may be having the opposite effect on artists than on festivals. While the best option for festivals is to wait until the government forces a cancellation, artists face the opposite problem. If an artist on tour suddenly has tour dates cancelled, they’ll be in a pretty bad position. If they don’t play, they don’t get paid. As Laura Jane Grace shared on Twitter, many insurance companies are updating their policies to not cover show cancellations due to viruses. In such cases, it’s better for an artist to proactively cancel their tours, rather than put up the money to make the show happen, only to have it cancelled at the last minute.
What happens next?
Live music is what pays the bills for many artists. At best, hopefully as few shows as possible are cancelled, and can be rescheduled where possible. At worst, the threat of coronavirus will continue to cause event cancellations, putting a strain on the industry.
As artists scheduled for official and unofficial SXSW showcases start or continue their tour routes to Austin, individuals and industry organizations are making an effort to help mitigate the effects of South By’s cancellation. In Austin, promoter Heard Presents is offering support and working to provide replacement showcases for affected artists. Around the country, promoters are putting together replacement shows for artists who want to reroute their tour. Hopefully, if other events are cancelled, the industry will continue to work around these cancellations.
How can fans still support artists?
If the coronavirus causes an artist you love to cancel shows, know that it probably wasn’t their first choice. Besides not being able to do what they love and perform for you, they’re likely missing out on a large portion of their income.
In the event of cancellations, there’s still plenty of ways that you can support your favorite artists. Buy some merch online. Stream or purchase the band’s latest album. Join their Patreon. Let the band know that you can’t wait to see them next time! Concerts are great but global health and safety is obviously more important.
To help mitigate the spread of coronavirus and other infectious diseases, follow the CDC’s recommendations. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your face. If you are sick, stay home. For more information, visit the CDC website about coronavirus.