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Live Nation exploring alternative concert experiences to fill void before 2021 return

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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The world's largest concert promoter hopes to offer alternative forms of live music in the near future but doesn't see a "full scale" return until possibly the middle of next year.

Speaking on a first-quarter earnings call last week, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said that "our goal is really to be on sale in the third and fourth quarters for 2021 in full scale."

The novel coronavirus pandemic has brought the concert industry to a full-stop, leading to the cancelation and postponement of scores of tours and festivals -- including, just last week, Journey, Jill Scott and Camila Cabello. It's also left promoters and venues grappling with what measures must be taken to resume, including social distancing and health checks for fans attending shows of all sizes.

Though "on track for tremendous growth" at the beginning of the year, Live Nation reported that its $1.37 gross revenues for the first quarter of 2020 were down 20 percent from the same period in 2019, with concert revenue down 25 percent and attendance down 6.2 percent. The silver lining, according to the report, is that more 90 percent of fans were holding on to tickets for rescheduled shows so far rather than asking for refunds.

Rapino said that there may be some concerts still taking place in the coming months, including "reduced capacity festival concerts which could be outdoors, could be in a theater, could be in a large stadium floor where there's enough room to be safe. We have all these plans in place depending on the market and where that local city may be in their reopening phases."

Rapino added that Live Nation -- which began a Crew Nation fundraising drive for behind-the-scenes workers impacted by the shutdown -- is also dedicated to continue "fanless concerts" via the Internet, as well as drive-in concerts that have been held in Sweden, Denmark and Germany, requiring attendees to stay in their cars while the act performs on stage. "I think in the fall you'll see more experimenting and more shows happening," Rapino noted during the call.

One U.S. venue, the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, N.H., N.H., has received a city permit for a "a cool little acoustic" drive-in concert on May 16; The performer has not yet been identified. Venue owner Scott Hayward has said fans will be able to sit outside of their vehicles or stay inside and listen to audio simulcast by a local FM radio station. Capacity will be about 75 cars.

Meanwhile, TempleLive in Fort Smith, Ark., is planning the country's first socially distanced concert on May 15 with Southern rocker Travis McCready, with the normally 1,100-capacity venue capped at 229 in seats set well apart from each other. But because the show takes place three days before Arkansasí current Stay Home order expires, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said via a statement he had the authority to cancel the show.

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