A survey of concert pros conducted by the trade magazine Pollstar finds some interesting splits between optimism and continued wariness as the industry tries to forecast what lies immediately ahead for their battered and still largely shut down business.
“It is encouraging that over half of all respondents, 54.7%, believe the industry will return to full capacity in 2021, as compared to 30.6% who say the comeback won’t happen until 2022,” Andy Gensler, the executive editor of Pollstar, wrote in a report summarizing the survey results.
Caution is still the buzzword, as only a tiny minority of respondents, 2%, expect that full resumption to happen during the first quarter of ’21. The pros surveyed who do expect full resumption in 2021 are are split about which of the remaining three quarters they expect to see that in: 16% say the second quarter, 25% say the third, and 12% are guessing it’ll happen in the final quarter of next year. That still, as Gensler indicated, leaves a little under a third who don’t think the industry will be back in full even by the end of next year… and 15% who admit they have “no idea” when the industry will be back in full force.
But, as he points out, the optimism is much greater and is targeted much sooner when the word “full” is taken out of the picture, with shows already resuming in limited-capacity forms. Gensler’s essay points to the fact that the Dallas Cowboys’ win over the Atlanta Falcons at AT&T Stadium last weekend took place in front of 21,708 fans as a beacon for the public and pros being open to seeing audiences returning in some capacity to shows, too.
The get-back-to-work urge is strong within the business, Pollstar reports. A robust 60% of those surveyed said they would return to work immediately — 18% unconditionally, and another 43% if the qualification of “health guidelines” is added. That leaves 31% who aren’t ready to return to their roles just yet, and 8% who are “unsure.” But, writes Gensler, “Clearly, a pool of experienced industry talent is ready, willing and able to return to work as this industry safely returns.”
Is running shows at less than full capacity an option as the concert business ramps back up? A majority say yes. The number of respondents who indicated that returning with less-than-full crowds would work “somewhat for their business” is 53%, with an additional 22% being even more affirmative, saying it will definitely work, adding up to a total of 75% who are down with the concept of partial-capacity concerts.
But worry remains. A good 72% answered in the anxious affirmative when asked if they had “concern about their company’s ability to survive COVID-19.” If business conditions have not improved six months from now, 37% say they would expect to be out of buisness. Another 31% believe they could hold on for 10-12 months without a substantial change in business before having to call it quits. Most anxious are the 13% who say they may only be able to last another 1-3 months if current conditions hold.
In any case, many of the responses that have been put in place as a reaction to the COVID crisis are likely to be permanent, or at least long-lasting. Gensler writes: “Six months ago, how many of us thought to incorporate into our operational plans advanced sanitization technologies, livestream platforms, increasingly rapid and affordable testing, no-touch thermal readers, socially distanced ticketing algorithms, cashless payment systems or aggressively pursue diversity in hiring? Going forward, these and other innovations will become part and parcel of a reshaped industry.”
The survey was conducted in August and early September among 1,350 industry pros, a quarter of whom work in the venue business, followed by 17% who are promoters and talent buyers, and 16% who provide support services, with the remainder made up of ticketers, agents and managers.
The full Pollstar report can be read here.