Live Nation Doesn't Plan to Resume Concerts at "Full Scale" Until Fall 2021

Get ready for a new normal of socially distanced shows, drive-in concerts, fan-less events and reduced-capacity festivals

BY Brock ThiessenPublished May 8, 2020

With a growing number of health experts and political leaders cautioning against staging concerts until a COVID-19 vaccine is found, Live Nation has begun mapping out its reopening plan, revealing we likely won't see concerts "full scale" from the global event giant until at least fall 2021.

In a call with investors on Thursday (May 7), Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino laid out the company's plan to reopen, and it doesn't appear concertgoers will get their old normal anytime soon.

As Variety reports, Rapino told investors that Live Nation has set both long-term and short-term goals when it comes to restarting concerts.

For the short-term Live Nation, will be "starting slow and small," Rapino explained, with the company exploring a variety of different options, from socially distanced shows, to drive-in concerts, to fan-less events and reduced-capacity festivals.

"Over the next six months, we'll be starting slow and small, focusing on the basics and testing regionally," he said. "But whether it's in Arkansas [where a socially distanced concert is schedule for May 15] or [another] state that is safe, secure and politically fine to proceed in, we're going to dabble in fan-less concerts with broadcasts and reduced-capacity shows, because we can make the math work."

Rapino continued:

There are a lot of great artists that can sell out an arena, but they'll do higher-end theatres or clubs. So you're gonna see us [gradually reopening] in different countries, whether it's Finland, Asia, Hong Kong — certain markets are farther ahead [in the recovery process]. Over the summer there will be testing happening, whether it's fan-less concerts, which offer great broadcast opportunities and are really important for our sponsorship business; drive-in concerts, which we're going to test and roll out and we're having some success with; or reduced-capacity festival concerts, which could be outdoors in a theatre on a large stadium floor, where there's enough room to be safe.

As to those longer-term projections, though, Rapino doesn't expect to see a full reopening until the fall of 2021 — yes, that means not until at least September 2021.

"We think in the fall [2020], if there are no second hotspots, you'll see markets around the world [reopening] — Europe, specifically, has talked about opening up 5,000-plus [gatherings] in September," Rapino explained. "And on the venue side, we're dealing with federal, the White House, every government body you can imagine, and we've got a great task force around what we have to do with the venue to make you safe."

He added, "So I think in the fall you'll see more experimenting and more shows happening in a theatre setting, into some arenas. And then our goal is really to be on sale in the third and fourth quarters for 2021 at full scale."

The reveal comes as Live Nation experiences some very real economic hardships. As its recently revealed earning reports showed, revenues was down 20 percent year-on-year, concert revenue was down 25 percent (from $1.318 billion to $993.4 million), ticketing was down 16 percent and fan attendance was down 6.2 percent. Live Nation's ticketing wing, Ticketmaster, was also recently forced to cut a quarter of its workforce.

Roughly 9,000 Live Nation concerts have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, but despite this, Rapino said 90 percent of fans are holding onto their tickets rather than seeking a refund. However, it's unclear how the company's recently changed ticket refund policy has affected that number; its "Ticket Relief Plan" website was launched less than two weeks ago, and previous to that, ticketholders could not get a refund to a concert that was postponed rather than cancelled.

Regarding the refund rate, Rapino said, "In a survey we just posted, we talked to 10,000 casual and ongoing ticketbuyers and the data is pretty compelling: 90 percent of fans are saying 'I can't wait to get back to the show,' and I think our refund rate says everything — we're running somewhere between a 5-10 refund rate right now on a global basis, that's much lower in Europe [which is farther ahead in the recovery process], and that's not out of line for when we reschedule a traditional tour [under normal circumstances]. Now we're just going to [watch] the science and see when we can back out there on a safe manner."

Latest Coverage