As States and cities across the country and globe struggle to contain the COVID-19 Pandemic, live music venues are suffering the secondary effects of stay at home and social distancing orders. Inherently concerts and live performances have relied on close contact with others, and that was what made them so special. The energy in a venue is electric as the crowd awaits a headlining act, and the visceral connection audience members make with each other and the performers it only one aspect of what makes live concerts such a vital piece of our culture.
We’ve already seen cancellations for major festivals like SXSW and Coachella, but it will likely be the smaller venues that suffer even worse fates. One locally owned club in Austin, TX, Barracuda, was recently forced to close due to the economic realities that they cannot be profitable without having people gather in a capacity higher than the cities 25 % re-opening guidelines permitted permanently. Closures like this aren’t uncommon, and what we lose when these institutions shutter goes far deeper than just the space itself. Close-knit communities lose a space to connect over a common bond, and alienation becomes more prevalent.
Though it’s not just fans losing beloved community spaces, musicians and other live performers have been forced to cancel spring and summer tours, which results in another economic breakdown. It’s not just the performers who are losing revenue but their touring support crews from road technicians to sounds engineers who are out of work, as well as service workers who no longer have the live spaces to earn their wages.
Well, now that the worst of our analysis is over, let’s look at some possible outcomes for moving forward and creating a new space for live performance and meaningful human connections.
More venues utilizing outdoor spaces to encourage more natural social distancing for concert-goers may be one of the most straightforward solutions as spaces won’t need to enact significant changes to their business models with many venues already offering outdoor shows. Also, encouraging audiences to wear face coverings, and maybe even incorporating branded masks into a band’s merchandise offerings. Virtual performances that are held in real-time can allow fans to connect with performers and create a sense of being in the same place at the same time.
These are just postulations, but at this point, that’s all anything is. With an uncertain future ahead, the primary goal of performers and venues will be ensuring everyone’s safety and health until more is known about COVID-19. Instituting new policies and navigating the path forward will be demanding, but working musicians and live performers are accustomed to adaptability and hard work. Though the times may be strange indeed, concerts and live performances are one of our most treasured cultural institutions, and we will be there on the other end, re-building communities and embracing real connections on the other side.