JUST PLAIN TALK: The day the music died

Buz Livingston
Walton Sun

Over the last decade, the live music industry boomed. Price Waterhouse projected 2020 concert revenue to be almost $30 billion; that’s enough money for The Wall Street Journal to notice, but then the coronavirus hit. Joe Berchtold, Live Nation Entertainment’s president, told The Journal (May 21, 2020) he has written off this year and hopes for a "big summer season in 2021." He’s not alone. Gregg Perloff, another industry big-wig who runs San Francisco’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, agrees.

Even before shows can return, music executives believe a vaccine must be developed or an effective treatment regimen, including testing and contract tracing. Big concerts, maybe smaller ones too, will look different. Hand sanitizer stations, temperature checks, and touchless ordering will be the norm.

Selling the maximum number of tickets has always been the goal, but with social distancing essential, how that plays out remains unknown. Playing two shows a night for 1,000 people in a venue that seats 3,000 may not be optimal, but it pays more than a Venmo tip jar. Many small clubs are at risk; many have limited seating, so physical distancing is impossible. If bands don’t have a place to play before they get airplay, they can’t make it work. The National Independent Venue Association believes 90 percent of their venues could close. Live Nation and other industry behemoths could buy venues, but many owners may convert them to retail or housing.

Superstar acts can afford extensive health protocols. Given their age and comorbidities, it’s probably a good idea. Lesser-known acts may be reluctant to travel. A tough economy means less ticket demand. I am not a virologist, but you don’t need to be one to see how a viral load could build inside a tour bus.

Living out of your suitcase, staying in motel rooms, and riding on planes and buses has the potential for viral exposure. Playing small gigs close to home or a type of mini-residency could be an option for some performers.

Keith Richards described heaven as being a rock star where no one knew who you were. Lesser-known acts don’t have Richards’ leeway and often sell VIP packages where fans can meet the artist in person.

No one is interested in shaking hands anymore, so that’s over.

Live streams have production problems, but some artists make it work. I’m not a hip-hop fan, not my genre, but the Verzuz series on Instagram Live has been well-received for those into that beat.

Don McLane asked rhetorically in "American Pie“ could music save your mortal soul, but he knew the answer. It certainly changed his life, but music is transformative for anyone who will listen. It may be a chill runs up your back. I bawled like a baby one night at The Chautauqua in Boulder when Marc Cohn played. South Walton’s beaches are why people come, but the music scene is better.

You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP, can help you figure out what you need. For specific advice, visit livingstonfinancial.net or drop by 2050 West County Highway 30A, M1 Suite 230.