Now that the results of the latest U.S. elections have given hope for the future to many of us for the first time in a long time, it feels like the right time to take stock of how the industry has handled these last few difficult months, as well as where we go from here, and what we can expect for the future.
It seems like every week another beloved venue announces that they are permanently shutting their doors due to the financial impacts of COVID-19. One such venue is The Rex Theater, which is important to me for a few reasons. Some of my favorite shows and memories took place there. It’s a venue I’ve seen 9 shows at (making it #3 of the ~90 venues I’ve been to). It’s also the venue where I had my first photo pass (Real Friends, November 21, 2018).
Chances are, one of your beloved venues is also in danger. Already, venues in 25+ states have closed their doors for good. While it may seem bleak and it’s depressing to talk about, it’s our reality. It also highlights how important it is to focus some of our energy on supporting venues that are getting by but may still need our help.
There’s Still Hope
Back in August (basically eons ago), we discussed ways to support venues, as well as out-of-work musicians and crew. As one way to non-financial support venues, we covered the Save Our Stages initiative. In case you missed it, the #SaveOurStages initiative, coordinated by the National Independent Venue Association, calls for the support of two bills: the SOS Act and the RESTART Act.
As of October 26, the Save Our Stages Act reached their 200th bipartisan cosponsor. However, the bill doesn’t have the power to help anyone unless it is passed. If you haven’t yet, there’s still time to contact your representatives and encourage them to support #SaveOurStages.
If you’re in a position to offer some financial support, consider buying merch from local venues and artists, or donating to a fundraiser or non-profit you find worthy. Check your favorite venues’ websites or social media posts, or view this non-profit list from Billboard for some ideas.
While it may not be until next year that traditional shows return, some innovative folks have pioneered the drive-in concert experience. Billboard has kept a list of some of the biggest shows, but the best way to keep up is by checking in with favorite artists and local production companies.
It’s not a perfect substitute by any means, but if a concert is what you’re craving then a drive-in concert may be your best option to catch a show while still saying COVID-safe.
If you decide to attend a drive-in concert, be prepared to pay per car rather than per person. Most shows are $60+/car (not including fees), so hopefully you have some COVID-safe friends to attend with, or it’ll be a bit on the expensive side. Most venues are also offering premium parking for higher prices, which may be worth it if you can swing it.
While the higher prices are a bit annoying (especially if you don’t have friends to carpool with), it’s worth keeping in mind that higher prices is the only way to make it financially viable. In most cases, drive-ins aren’t able to accommodate nearly as many people as would usually attend the shows. In order to cover the costs of equipment, stage hands, tech crews, and other expenses with fewer paying attendees, prices are going to be higher. As it is, the people putting on these events aren’t making much of a profit, so consider still buying merch and concessions if you can!
If you’re not wanting to catch a drive-in or don’t have friends to split a ticket with, live streams may be best! We’ve covered live streams in the past, but there’s still plenty of events taking place every day. As an added bonus here, many of these events are free or very affordable, since artists can sell as many tickets as people are willing to buy.
Personally, I’ve attended a few paid livestreams so far, as well as a ton of free ones. Whether it was a full-on production like Code Orange’s livestreams, or a more intimate affair like an acoustic Instagram live, all of them have been special in their own way, and it’s been great to connect with people over a love of live music once again, even if only over text chat.
While most festivals in 2020 either postponed/cancelled or went digital, there are quite a few festivals already on the books for 2021! Events in the US that are currently on sale include:
- The Fest (Gainesville, FL; October 29-31, 2021)
- Outside Lands (San Francisco, CA; August 6-8, 2021)
- Psycho Las Vegas (NV; August 20-22, 2021)
- Riot Fest (Chicago, IL; September 17-19, 2021)
- Shadow of the City (Asbury Park, NJ; May 29, 2021)
- Sixthman cruises (sailing out of Athens, Greece; New York; and Miami, FL; Next events starting August, 2021 – Check out our interview with Production Manager Ethan Schwartz)
- SXSW will be digital in 2021. Registration opens today for the digital event taking place March 16-20, 2021
Festivals with 2021 dates on the books:
- Austin City Limits (Austin, TX; Oct 1-3 & 8-10, 2021)
- Blue Ridge Rock Festival (Lynchburg, VA; September 18-20, 2021 – Check out our interview with CEO Jon Slye)
- Bonnaroo (Manchester, TN; September 2-5, 2021)
- Buku (New Orleans, LA; March 19+20, 2021)
- Hangout Fest (Gulf Shores, AL; May 21-23, 2021)
- Inkcarceration (Mansfield, OH; July 16-18, 2021)
Festivals we’re still waiting to hear about:
- Coachella is currently scheduled for April 2021, but rumor has it they may reschedule yet again to Fall 2021.
- Firefly Festival states on their website “we look forward to welcoming you in the Woodlands in June 2021,” but no dates are confirmed.
- Gov Ball (NYC) is definitely planning a festival for 2021 (they’ve done a few contests on their socials), but has yet to confirm a lineup or dates. Tentative dates are listed on several sites as June 4-6, 2021.
- Lollapalooza has yet to release specific dates for 2021, but their website states they are “working hard behind the scenes to deliver Chicago a spectacular celebration of Lollapalooza’s 30th Anniversary in the summer of 2021.”
While many artists and booking agencies are hesitant to book new tours, there are quite a few rescheduled shows with dates on the books for 2021. Here’s what we know so far:
- Aerosmith’s 50th Anniversary show is now September 14, 2021
- Bikini Kill will be touring the U.S. in September-November
- The Doobie Brothers‘ 50th Anniversary tour kicks of July 2021
- Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour kicks off in September 2021 in Europe, and hits the U.S. in January 2022
- Guns N’ Roses‘ U.S. tour is now July-August, 2021
- Hot Mulligan’s tour with Heart Attack Man, Meet Me @ The Altar, and Super American is now May-June, 2021
- Kiss’ End of the Road Tour kicks off August 18 in the U.S.
- Matchbox Twenty‘s North America tour is July-October, 2021
- Rage Against the Machine‘s reunion tour is now taking place in June-August, 2021
Have you attended any drive-in shows or livestreams? Which upcoming events are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below!