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Concerts & COVID: How a Global Pandemic Changed the Landscape of Live Music Events

“Welcome to the jungle; we got fun and games…” - Guns and Roses

Picture this…

The sun is fading on the horizon of a mellow summer night. You’re walking to a local concert venue with a few friends on a bustling downtown sidewalk. The crowd around you is moving in the same direction. Everyone seems electrically charged with anticipation.

In the distance, you can hear some quiet laughter on a patio nearby as friends finish their drinks and prepare to follow hundreds of others into a large-scale concert venue. The smell of popcorn fills the air as you consider buying band merch on your way into the darkened arena. The lights dim, and the music plays.

Another live music event has just begun!

“Sweet dreams are made of these…” - Annie Lennox

Two years and one life-altering global pandemic later, this type of live music experience seems like a distant dream for many. Since 2020, the majority of the global public has embraced public health restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Some of these pandemic restrictions included scaling back on large events in terms of crowd sizes and increasing preventative measures like cleaning, distancing, and masking. In some cases, COVID-19 restrictions also meant closing the doors to concert venues for months at a time – this was especially true in North America.

“I want to break free…” - Queen

The consistent resurgence and unpredictability of the COVID-19 virus have made it challenging to plan adequately and consistently for live music events. Fans have been consistently disappointed by artists optimistically scheduling tour dates and then having to later cancel and refund ticket sales amid another wave. It’s felt downright chaotic to be a live music fan over the last two years.

And yet, it looks like the world may be slowly emerging on the other side of COVID-19 restrictions. Many places like Europe and North America have been rolling back restrictions like crowd limits and venue closures. This means – that live music events may be back on the docket for the summer of 2022 and beyond.

“Come as you are, as you were…” - Nirvana

Mega-events like festivals, concerts, and other live music experiences are back on deck once again for fans. Undoubtedly, many fans still have some anxiety and questions about how concerts will be operating as the world continues to deal with the COVID-19 virus spreading through various communities.

The best way to gauge how concerts will be rolling out is to take a look at how some places are already doing it (or trying). Here’s a list of a few places and the fundamental changes that they’re implementing as they move into the festival and live music season.

  • Los Angeles – As of April 1, all restrictions were lifted in the LA County area regarding COVID-19. This includes no mask mandate, no proof of vaccination, and no testing required upon entry to large-scale concerts or sporting events. However, in the City of Los Angeles region, proof of vaccination is still required (but it is rumoured that it could be removed soon).

  • Toronto – Throughout March, the provincial government rolled back most COVID-19 regulations and limits. As of April 1, 2022, all large-scale concert venues can operate in the same way as they did before the pandemic. This may be subject to change depending on how the new variants spread through the Canadian population and will impact the healthcare system in the province.

  • London (UK) – As of February, England had removed all restrictions around COVID-19. This means that concert venues are free to operate as they did before the pandemic. UK health officials are still recommending masking in crowded spaces, but it is not mandated.

The trend certainly appears to be toward the removal of restrictions and monitoring of infections in the healthcare systems. While this won’t apply to all regions of the globe, major cities and countries can be a great indicator of where the global population is headed as a whole.

If you’re more curious about restrictions and trends that are local to you - consider what restrictions are still in place in your area. How would this affect the operations of a live music event or large-scale festival?

“You can’t always get what you want…” - The Rolling Stones

Despite the easing of restrictions in many areas, festival and concert venues are likely to maintain a heightened sense of cleanliness and vigilance around disease spread. This may include increased cleaning of high-traffic areas like washrooms and potential symptom screening at the door of some venues. Most of these actions will not be mandated by the government and will be optional for event organizers.

In terms of concert-goers, there may be some who choose to wear masks or other PPE to protect themselves during the live music experience. There may also be others who opt to skip this upcoming season in favour of watching the trends and disease spread into late 2022.

Concerning the musical talent, there may be some unpredictability around last-minute show cancellations if artists or their bands have an outbreak. As COVID-19 continues to circulate, artists will likely put their health (and the health of their crew) ahead of performing for fans. Any diehard fan understands that unexpected things happen on tour. A potential COVID-19 outbreak is just another thing to add to the list!

“Here comes the sun. And I say, it’s all right…” - The Beatles

Despite all of the ups and downs in the live music industry over the last two years, industry insiders are excited and optimistic about the return of live shows. Some fans may be hesitant (or uncomfortable) to jump back in, but those who have been itching to hear the sweet sound of live music will be thrilled.

If you’re concerned as a fan about a concert venue and its restrictions or policies around COVID-19 - be sure to do your research ahead of time. Check out the venue’s website and give them a call if you still have questions about operations.

For those who are immunocompromised or concerned about serious infection - it may be best to sit out this year’s festivities and reconsider in 2023. It’s all about your comfortability and choice regarding COVID-19, but concert venues and artists are ready to welcome you back with open arms when you’re ready.

And remember…

“For those about to rock, we salute you!” - AC/DC