AEG Presents, one of the two world’s largest live-entertainment companies, will begin offering refunds for concerts that have been rescheduled, according to a letter circulated to agents this week.
The letter, first reported by the New York Times and obtained by Variety, says that beginning on May 1, a 30-day window will be available for fans to receive refunds for concerts that have solid rescheduled dates. After May 1, fans will have 30 days after the rescheduled dates have been announced to ask for refunds. The letter also says that, as another option, ticketholders “will have the options of getting a full refund or donating their money to a charity,” which is to be determined but “likely MusicCares.”
The directive also clarifies for promoters new payment structures for headlining shows of various sizes, ranging from clubs to arenas. As Variety reported on Wednesday, options for how shows will move forward financially range from guarantees against expenses to a full and immediate cancelation, if sales for the date were soft to begin with. The latter would trigger an automatic refund for ticket buyers, while the length of postponement is unclear. Also not articulated is what happens when it’s a postponement of a postponement, as is increasingly looking likely considering the mayors of New York and Los Angeles foresee no major public gatherings for the rest of the year, without a cure for the coronavirus.
The pandemic-imposed postponement of virtually every concert date for the foreseeable future has thrown the concert industry into disarray, as it would be financially unfeasible for promoters to refund every show. At a time of mass economic upheaval for nearly every segment of the population, thousands of fans are hundreds if not thousands of dollars out of pocket for shows that have been postponed indefinitely; AEG Presents’ move will address at least some of the problem.
Live Nation, the world’s largest live-entertainment company and AEG’s chief competitor, has not set a time for refunds, but essentially promised an arrangement similar to AEG Presents’ in the coming days.
“Live Nation’s plan is to continue offering an opportunity for refunds on all of its rescheduled shows as new dates are set,” it said in a statement. “We anticipate those windows will begin to open up on an event by event basis in the next few weeks.”
The move chips away at recent sudden changes in policy by ticket vendors — including market leader Ticketmaster, which is owned by Live Nation — that only allow for refunds in the case of a full cancelation. In the case of leading secondary-ticket market leader StubHub, the company dropped its refund policy in favor of vouchers for 120% of the original value (leading to at least one lawsuit), saying that refunding every concert canceled due to the pandemic is financially unfeasible.
AEG Presents’ move is also a tacit acknowledgement that even if quarantines are lifted by late spring, it’s difficult to predict with any accuracy when authorities will give an all-clear to even smaller gatherings — let alone when people will feel secure enough to congregate.
A realistic scenario, industry experts tell Variety, is a “staged evolution” — a gradual return to concertgoing, beginning with smaller venues and slowly ramping up to arenas and stadiums, presumably well after a vaccine has been proven effective.
“It’s not like someone’s going to ring a bell and say ‘It’s safe to go to any concert, anywhere,’” says one insider. “It will depend on the capacity of the venues, whether or not the venue is outdoors, where in the country they are and what the social-distancing possibilities look like.”