Live concerts, with a virtual side

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RemeDo you have the simple pleasures of the pre-COVID world when being able to see your favorite band was just a matter of winning seats with the Drummer’s Girlfriend or saving up to be rated by Ticketmaster?

TThe short-term expectation for the post-pandemic music scene this summer, according to industry veterans, is outdoor concerts at a lower capacity to account for social distancing. As for indoor arena events, as Elton John might sing, it’s going to be a very, very long time.

“There are a lot of national artists who want to get back to work,” says Dan McGowan, Managing Partner of The Crofoot Presents, a Pontiac concert hall. “We will be doing national outdoor shows this summer. That’s not good news, however, for the lesser-known and local talent who was the regular fare at Crofoot before COVID.

And while the outdoor shows will look like we’re used to, they will look and function differently. The pods will be standard, accommodating between four and six people per group and spaced from other parts. Food and drinks can be brought to you via contactless ordering. “A lot of things are just going to make it more comfortable for people,” McGowan says.

It all depends on the deployment of the vaccine, of course. If enough people are vaccinated and new cases of COVID drop dramatically, viewers may start to feel better about attending indoor performances. Either way, McGowan says, places like his are likely to invest in massive air purifiers and contactless devices to further protect guests.

A legacy of COVID may be the virtual gig, an existential necessity during the pandemic that has shown some artists how to monetize their distant popularity. Detroit Electric Group Six, for example, did three virtual shows in 2020 for which they charged viewers $ 10 to stream and included a download of the concert with a higher quality audio mix. Some 1,500 viewers from around the world, including die-hard fans from the UK and Russia, showed up.

Many acts and venues may continue to offer virtual programming, especially for people with disabilities or those living far from large metropolitan areas who could not easily attend shows in the past. “Streaming concerts don’t generate as much revenue as live concerts, but it’s good if you can do both,” says Nate Dorough, talent buyer for concert producer Audiotree Presents, which operates in Michigan. and Illinois.

Last year, Audiotree Presents hosted 25 shows online and sold around 10,000 tickets priced at $ 10 to $ 20 to indie bands that included Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! and ’90s rock band Local H. That’s roughly the equivalent of selling Loving Touch in Ferndale or The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor 25 times. “You can put those live broadcasts on your 60-inch TV and it looks great,” says Dorough. “You can turn up the volume and annoy your neighbors. It’s as close as it gets to a full-fledged concert experience in your living room.

Dorough says streaming shows could remain a mainstay for years to come, as live shows and tours gradually return to normal. Music websites like Bandsintown are banking on it, rolling out a $ 9.99 subscription service that features 25 live concerts per month from Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Phoebe Bridgers, and Flying Lotus. It could also be a permanent addition to live shows, allowing bands to entertain fans in the parts of the world that are expensive to visit.

Yet while the model has worked as a temporary balm, explains Electric Six guitarist Dave Malosh, the band is unlikely to do virtual shows once the pandemic is over. “I want to go play shows,” says Malosh, co-owner of Small’s Bar in Hamtramck. “Part of the [virtual shows] make sure that no one forgets us. We’re at a science now, but I didn’t sign up for that, man. I want to swing! “

A frightening prospect, however, is that the economic devastation of the pandemic could lead to a decrease in the number of sites still in operation by the time everyone is ready to go out again. It depends on being able to get bigger crowds together as soon as possible, McGowan says.

“If we’re at 50% of our capacity in a year, our industry is in trouble,” he says. “I hope we will be at 80 to 90% of our capacity in a year, and it will still be difficult. The margins in our industry are incredibly slim.

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