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Harnessing the Opportunity of Live Entertainment

March 30, 2021

After a year of isolation and trepidation, it is clear we are seeing a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. To be sure, we are still in a tunnel, but a return to some semblance of normalcy is not far off.

Of many things we have been deprived during this crisis, live entertainment is surely near the top of the list. This is something we all share, but it is also an opportunity that radio has exploited for many years.

Entertainment artists, their management, and venues are approaching the openness with apprehension. They do not want to jump into the fray only to be potentially dealt another setback. In addition, COVID-related restrictions will vary by jurisdiction. Some may allow full attendance, others a variation on that theme. Certainly, promoters and venues want a level of certainty before they start booking tours.

Many unanswered questions still exist. Besides attendance limits, will concert goers be required to wear masks? Will proof of a vaccination be mandated? Will tours have to live in a “mobile bubble,” similar to professional sports teams today? What about venue staff? Besides protecting themselves, how will they ensure a safe and clean environment for patrons?

Smarter minds than ours are already digging deeply into these questions and we will bow to their expertise in this field.

Our question is simple – how will this affect radio?

We already know there is no such thing as “business as usual.” In the pre-pandemic days of yore, radio had a symbiotic relationship with touring acts. Local venues were a source of revenue and promotions. Formats like Country and Alternative developed lasting relationships that not only sold tickets, but also provided multi-platform content.

How will this relationship manifest itself in the new world order?

We’re pretty certain the big guys will come roaring back. Luke Bryan or Taylor Swift or Bruce Springsteen will not have any difficulty selling out large halls and arenas. Scores of acts – both classic and current – will easily fill up sheds and medium-sized venues.

This will happen for several reasons. Pent-up demand will drive ticket sales. It will be interesting to see if acts change their pricing strategy. The smaller acts and venues desperately need the money but will the tent pole performers still charge exorbitant fees? Will an act step forward (I’m looking at you Garth Brooks) with a “democratic pricing structure”? That could be a public relations coup.

That said, regardless of price, venues will sell out.

The second reason concerts will return with a vengeance is that acts have done a great job communicating directly with their fan bases. Database marketing and social media will guarantee notice.

Finally, this will be an opportunity for radio to reassert itself as the medium of music. Concert announcements are great local content for radio. As much as we media hogs love free tickets, we are just as hungry as our audience to get out and listen to live music. We can use this as a way of bonding with our fans.

Let me take this a step further. We can all agree that the big acts and venues will do fine, and that radio will ride their coattails as things step back up.

The smaller clubs and venues, on the other hand, have struggled to survive. Many of these are local market legends. Sadly, even with PPP funding, too many have closed for good.

The same holds true for local and regional performers. Those who don’t jet from gig to gig but still provide entertainment – and income – for so many, may have to shutter temporarily.

Tap into that emotion and be one of them. Maybe this will be an opportunity to go live at these events. Share in the sheer joy your listeners are experiencing. You can bet your local TV station will have crews at these events, at least in the early going.

The concert business likely won’t get back into full swing until late 2021. Hopefully, that means 2022 will prove to be a banner year. Everyone will announce world tours and venues will be jammed.

Will radio treat this as a new opportunity or will we run the same old playbook?

Let us show you how we can help you pitch this business by reaching out here.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant