Ben Folds Shares a Very Sobering Message About Touring in 2020

"Until this virus is in the rear view... we cannot be certain large gatherings won't re-ignite the spread"
Ben Folds Shares a Very Sobering Message About Touring in 2020
Now a month-and-a-half into coronavirus lockdown, fans and musicians are understandably antsy about when it will be possible to go to concerts again. But while some artists have rescheduled their tours for the fall, Ben Folds has cancelled all of his 2020 concert plans, saying that the health of his audience is more important than playing shows.

In an email to fans on his mailing list, Folds dropped some harsh truths about the state of touring in 2020 in the wake of COVID-19. He wrote that, according to medical experts, the only way to fully stop coronavirus will be with a vaccine, which is unlikely to be available in 2020. Although some regions may fully reopen sooner than others, he argued that playing any shows before the virus is fully stamped out is likely to make it spread.

Folds wrote, "One city may experience what seems like complete recovery just as another in a neighboring state is seeing an uptick in cases. It would be irresponsible to incentivize music fans to travel from where there was a canceled show in an infected area, to attend a show in an infection-free area."

Folds also took a pointed jab at the U.S. government for allowing states to determine their own coronavirus regulations. He compared the situation to when the traffic lights are out during a storm: "Absent clear direction, we're all left to rely on what the car ahead of us did, hoping that nobody gets run over in the process. Honestly, absent federal guidance, I took my cue from Taylor Swift who also canceled all her touring for 2020. A decision like that takes guts, so thank you President Swift."

Rather than play things by ear, Folds is cancelling his shows outright, saying that the uncertainty of not knowing when touring will resume only compounds the problems. And, most importantly, "Health and safety come first. That is certain."

He added: "The well-being of my audiences — from 12-year olds whose parents cover their ears when I forget not to cuss, to couples their grandparent's age singing three-part harmonies — is too dear to me to be put at risk. Not to mention those whose paths we might cross once the show lets out. Until this virus is in the rear view — and again we're told this will not be in 2020 — we cannot be certain large gatherings won't re-ignite the spread just as it's been contained."

Meanwhile, Folds has been performing for fans from home with a livestream concert series.

Read his full letter below:

This is the official announcement that my touring for 2020 is now canceled and will be rescheduled at the first opportunity in 2021. That's the important part. But if you're interested, here's why I've made that decision now:  

Infectious disease specialists tell us that COVID-19 will be here for a while, swirling around the globe until it is stopped by a vaccine, and that it is astronomically unlikely that we will develop and distribute that vaccine this year. In fact, we have never before developed a successful vaccine against
any coronavirus. Well. That's all I really need to know.  

Just leaving shows on the books, going with wait-and-see until the last minute, is not in the best interest of ticket buyers, promoters, crew and even businesses near venues. It just adds to our endless list of uncertainties. What is needed in a time of such uncertainty, when a historic pandemic is killing people, erasing jobs, and disrupting life as we know it, is to shed as much of that uncertainty as possible, and to take stock of that which is certain.  

Health and safety come first. That is certain. The well-being of my audiences — from 12-year olds whose parents cover their ears when I forget not to cuss, to couples their grandparent's age singing three-part harmonies — is too dear to me to be put at risk. Not to mention those whose paths we might cross once the show lets out. Until this virus is in the rear view — and again we're told this will not be in 2020 — we cannot be certain large gatherings won't re-ignite the spread just as it's been contained. I'm sure that some cities, states and venues might technically allow our concerts much sooner than others. But remember that the USA is a massive country. One city may experience what seems like complete recovery just as another in a neighboring state is seeing an uptick in cases. It would be irresponsible to incentivize music fans to travel from where there was a cancelled show in an infected area, to attend a show in an infection-free area.  

Our federal government leaders have decided to let the states and cities fend for themselves, making decisions like these all more stressful. It's a little like when traffic lights are out during a storm. (Nobody ever complained of the government coming between them and a car accident, did they?) Absent clear direction, we're all left to rely on what the car ahead of us did, hoping that nobody gets run over in the process. Honestly, absent federal guidance, I took my cue from Taylor Swift who also cancelled all her touring for 2020. A decision like that takes guts, so thank you President Swift. And I'm grateful to have a booking agent, manager, and crew with broad shoulders.  

Of course, this is a huge disappointment to me personally.  I've never gone a whole year in my two decades plus as a performer without seeing you all from the stage regularly.  

Here's what I say. Let's get through this and look forward to a time when we can begin the next phase of that long road to recovery. When we can party like it's 2021 and not like it's 1918. When we can sing those three-part harmonies with healthy lungs. That is when live music will be able to step in and do its part to heal and inspire. Until then, please stay safe, and remember, no matter how bad it gets, the most comforting certainty is that all this too shall pass. 

Ben