Today, LiveNation formally announced plans for a summertime drive-in-style concert series in a much anticipated move.
Is this what The Summer of 2020 will look like?
In a much anticipated move, Live Nation announced a 3-city drive-in concert series today. The 9 shows will take place July 10-12, 2020 at amphitheater venues (well, their parking lots, anyway) in Nashville, St. Louis, and Indianapolis.
The only one “touring” on this series is Brad Paisley, who will headline shows in all three cities; Darius Rucker and Jon Pardi headline their own Nashville shows (Nissan Stadium); Nelly will headlines his hometown of St. Louis (Hollywood Casino Amphitheater); Yacht Rock Review and El Monstero each get a night in Indy and St. Louis, respectively. No direct support or opening acts are listed.
Basically, this is a controlled tailgate experience; the only difference is the show happens during the tailgating instead of after it.
Tickets start at $125 per vehicle with a max of 4 people per vehicle. (Quick math…$31.25 per person), and tickets get scanned through your window in an effort to remain contact-less. Fans are allowed to bring their own food (no grills, etc.) and beverages (alcohol, too!), and some food and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase.
Live Nation staff will be required to mask-up, though fans will not.
Though they are selling merch, it’s online-only, and all proceeds go to Crew Nation (a global relief fund for tour crews).
While it’s billed as drive-in-style, the promised experience should be a little better. The performances take place on a stage with full production (including full PA and video/IMAG). Fans can be outside their vehicles and catch the show from the lot (unlike true drive-in shows which rely partially on car stereos to transmit the audio signal.)
Fans will have to stay in a pre-delineated “personal tailgate zone” (about the size of a 2-car garage) except to use a single-use restroom. Essentially, that zone is a group of 3 adjacent parking spaces: to the left, a space for your vehicle; in the center, a space for your group to party; to the right, an intentionally-empty space. Cars/zones are staggered to discourage congregating between parties.
What’s it mean?
For the foreseeable future (the Summer and perhaps early Fall, at least), drive-in shows like this may be the only viable option for major touring artists.
One considerable challenge for artists to get back on the road is the fact that there is no nation-wide set of guidelines, and states are making up their own rules as they go along. (To that end, we’ve put together a State-By-State Guide with live-music-centric info.)
To be sure, Live Nation isn’t doing this for the artists (just last week they asked artists to take a 25% pay cut and swallow a list of other concessions, including taking on the cancellation risk), and they aren’t doing it for the fans. But, if it works out, it could be a compromise for artists, venues/promoters, and fans, and they are taking control of the situation by booking a series of shows in multiple cities.
Most A-list artists seem to have written off 2020 almost entirely, rescheduling this year’s touring plans to 2021 (to the dismay of their crews and bands, the vast majority of whom are paid by the week, not on salary.)
Artists who are willing to get back out there are up against severe cap limits (25% to 50% of normal capacity). Last month Live Nation promoted a show in Travis McCready in Arkansas – reportedly the first socially-distanced show, playing to about 200 attendees inside a 1,100-cap theater.
Even before the recent Live Nation contract shenanigans, the new venue caps have led some to get creative: Play 2- or 3-night-stands, increase ticket prices, or lean more heavily on merch sales (especially online).
Surprisingly, big-name artists have not yet embraced full-production livestream shows. Sure, we’ve all seen plenty of home livestream shows from the artist’s cell phone (we even hosted our own livestream concert series at the start of the shutdown), and we’ve partnered with our friends at Hellooo TV who are bringing road-worthy production quality to live-streaming. But frankly, we’re surprised that more major artists have not shot fan-less shows with full stage production, 4K video and high-fidelity audio, and monetized it with a pay-per-view model. (Nugs is one platform offering free and paid shows.)
The Opportunity in Uncertainty
The silver lining here is that the remainder of 2020 could be an opportunity for independent artists to level up in terms of touring.
But 2020 could very well be the year that independent artists who are willing to get back out there gain the most ground with fan acquisition. With the big guys taking the year off, independent artists and small independent venues struggling financially, it could be the perfect storm to team up.
Hundreds of independent music venues around the country have essentially unionized, forming NIVA, the National Independent Venues Association to lobby congress for help through #SaveOurStages, standardize venue reopenings around the country, and help member-venues navigate the troubled waters.
With the Summer upon us, and a large contingency of fans clammoring for a live show (albeit with new safety measures), the independent artists willing to play independent venues may reap the biggest rewards. Those who don’t take this time level up their business model and presentation and stay connected to fans will miss out, and will likely be forgotten.
What Do You Think?
As an artist, musician, or crew member, would you play shows like this?
As a fan, would you attend shows like this?
What does the rest of 2020 look like for you?