Coronavirus Concerns Consume Live Music Industry
Live music, from club shows to major concerts, is beginning to feel the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Live Nation and other live music-related stocks took a beating last week as the death toll from the coronavirus topped 3000 worldwide. But it is working-class musicians – many of whom live from gig to gig – who will be the hardest hit.
Across Asia, venues and gatherings of all sizes are shut down. But even in Switzerland all events over 1000 people banned and France is stopping all indoor gatherings of more than 5,000. Billboard is publishing an ongoing list of concerts canceled because of the outbreak.
No such ban has been implemented in the US as of yet, even as the second COVID-19 related death was reported and the total identified cases in the country rose to 89 on Monday.
Fans could also decide to stay away from shows even without a formal ban.
With more than 73,000 attendees including tens of thousands of musicians and music industry professionals set to descend on Austin in 10 days, SXSW is saying that it is business as usual.
“The SXSW 2020 event is proceeding as planned,” SXSW said in a statement. “Safety is a top priority for SXSW, and we work closely with local, state, and federal agencies year-round to plan for a safe event. Where travel has been impacted, especially in the case of China, we are seeing a handful of cancellations. However, we are on par with years past in regard to registrants who are unable to attend.”
How Long Will This Last?
No one really knows the arc of the outbreak in the US or globally, but most experts agree that it will get worse in the coming days and weeks before it gets better.
In part to calm investors, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino expressed optimism that the busy summer concert and festival season would not be disrupted 0n an earnings call last week:
“…most of our business doesn’t start till the middle of June onwards. So the next few months, we’ll have some cancellations, I assume, here and there in some arenas and clubs, but the heart of our business happens this summer.
“And we’re optimistic.. we hope that it can be handled in the summer months bring us some relief and we’ll business as usual.”
Since major tours can be postponed, Rapino sees income from concerts as delayed but not lost.
“The artist will tour whether they have to jump off this quarter and go in the fall, or 2021, we won’t net lose the business.”
Live Nation’s promise of deferred income looks very different for may working artists and smaller venues who count on every week’s revenue to stay afloat.