The New Norm For Live Music


I didn’t question why there were only ten people waiting in line for a general admission concert. My friends and I had come a few hours early; maybe it was finally my time to get front row for one of my favorite rappers, Ski Mask the Slump God. After freezing in the December air for about 3 hours, an announcement blared from the speakers above our heads.

“ATTENTION. Due to the death of his close friend this morning, Ski Mask cannot perform and tonight’s concert is canceled.”

No. No way this could be happening. By now it was a half hour before doors were supposed to be opening, and more cars were trickling in (only to be told to turn around and head back home). I felt disappointed and dumbfounded.  As we were leaving the venue, I remember telling my friends, “I knew it was too good to be true. I knew the second I read the headline, ‘JuiceWrld Dead’ this morning.” But I didn’t know. Ski Mask said nothing on social media that day about having to cancel. These are not things patrons know ahead of time. So why should customers lose money because of unforeseen circumstances?

The December 2019 concert was postponed to June 2020. Then March 2020 rolled around along with another unforeseen circumstance: the Covid-19 outbreak that changed our whole world. I could tell the concert would be canceled again, so I awaited the news as well as a reimbursement from SeatGeek. The news came, but the money didn’t. I thought, “This isn’t right! How can they do this?” I haven’t bought a ticket to such an event since, but we’re now in a new phase of the pandemic where I can buy such a ticket once more. I call this new phase the false hope phase; we’re hoping for things with no real certainty. 

At first, I was excited to see announcements of upcoming music festival and concert tickets for sale. In fact I almost bought tickets to Life Is Beautiful, a music festival in Las Vegas until I did the math on how much I’d be risking. Remembering what happened with SeatGeek, I resisted the urge to buy the ticket and decided to wait until things get “back to normal.” But what would these concerts look like? And are they worth buying tickets for? 

Ian Forsyth Getty Images

Don’t expect any mosh pits. CDC guidelines still advise that people avoid large gatherings, so you won’t be dancing in a crowd with hundreds of other people. This also means you’ll still be maintaining social distance in public areas, and you would likely be watching the show from a designated area separated by a couple feet’s distance from other parties. And even if you’re fully vaccinated or return a negative Covid test, you’ll still be wearing a mask the majority of the time.

Also consider travel. In my case, I would have had to fly to Las Vegas since it is far from Philadelphia, and that method of travel comes with its own restrictions and risks. The good news for travel is that if you do get vaccinated, you no longer have to quarantine before and after aircraft travel nor do you have to get tested, but the CDC says you will still need to avoid “medium or large gatherings” regardless.

Regarding the potential for cancelation, do your research! To be safe, I would avoid buying from third parties and go directly to the source. Look at the event’s website. See if tickets are refundable and what the company plans to do in the event of a postponement. Billboard News has several lists of music events and their status.

Though I might hold a grudge against SeatGeek, it’s important to understand that no one saw this coming, and we are all uncertain of the future. The live entertainment industry was hit hardest, so the desire to bring back concerts and festivals safely is their top priority too. Event planners must add new pandemic precautions such as rapid testing, opening the venue early, and reduced capacity.

According to Rolling Stone magazine concert promoter Robert Shapiro is implementing all three precautions for his upcoming indoor event, Brooklyn Bowl. Rapid testing is a must. Anyone wanting to enter should come with either a negative test result or, now, proof of vaccination. The rapid test keeps things simple; other testing forms get complicated as it throws quarantining and contact tracing into the mix.

Opening early would reduce crowds outside the venue. It’s beneficial on the venue’s end because they have more opportunities to compel customers to buy food and drink while they wait for the main event. I think it’s beneficial on our end, too (Who really likes waiting in long lines?).

Along with shorter lines due to early arrival, there will also be less crowding since the event limits capacity. This has been a common tool for all indoor commerce and it seems to be working so long as people stay masked up.

Anything indoor will have more limits, but throughout this past year efforts have gone into research on the issue. In fact, last November a huge study was conducted in Leipzig, Germany. The scientists hosted the study in a large stadium, having temperature checks at the door and keeping all groups socially distanced in the seats. Everyone is working toward the common goal to bring back fun in these strange times.

The bottom line is you can certainly attend concerts starting as early as late summer, just know it won’t be normal and you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth all the obstacles. You won’t see me dropping hundreds of dollars on music festivals just yet, but I might attend a few local outdoor shows just to feel part of a community again. Being a year into the pandemic, it seems that most people have gotten so used to the rules that it has become our new normal. Though this won’t last forever, this redefined normalcy might have to remain for a bit longer. We just have to make the most of it. So while you wait for normal to return, get vaccinated, enjoy the weather getting warmer, and keep dancing to your favorite music!

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