Live events are on the comeback… are you ready?

March 23, 2021


After the havoc wrought on the events industry over the past year it seems that the live events market is moving towards a new normal and sweeping away the debris left by Covid-19. As vaccines begin to roll out worldwide, Spring begins in the northern hemisphere, and much of Asia Pacific is embracing live sport again, we take a peek at how things are progressing.

In the outdoor concert territory, it seems that organisers and fans are equally (cautiously) enthusiastic to return to concert venues – especially with many fans holding ‘postponed’ tickets from the concerts that didn’t go ahead last year.

If we look for examples elswhere, PM Boris Johnson has just announced the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown for outdoor gatherings to be in place by June 2021. From the US and Canada, music touring giant Live Nation’s president and CEO, Michael Rapino sees a 75 to 100 per cent capacity for outdoor events are looking likely over the next year and that music artists are on board to get things going.

“There are twice as many major touring artists on cycle in 2022 than a typical year – about 45 artists versus the usual 25,” said Rapino.  “And there remains plenty of scheduling availability at arenas, amphitheatres and stadiums to accommodate these additional tours, with over two-thirds of these venues’ nights unused by sporting events or major concerts in a typical year.”

Here at home, we are witnessing the restricted return of fans to outdoor international and national sports events such as Tennis, Cricket, AFL, AFLW, NRL, and NSL. In addition to indoor arenas hosting SuperNetball, NBL, WNBL. This month the Australian Institute of Sport released their framework for the reboot of sport in the leadup to the (limited yet live) Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

Within the Australian arts sector; live theatre, festivals, opera, galleries, cinemas and exhibitions have likewise come back to life albeit with mask-wearing and physical distancing measures and limited numbers in place. State governments are making updates to restrictions weekly, but we move ahead with due caution.

Why the sluggish comeback?

In case you missed it, the events industry was one of the earliest industries forced to shut down and is proving to be one of the last to reopen. We know that 96% of business events scheduled for 2020 in Australia were cancelled or postponed. During this time, promoters, ticketing, venues, and artists were cut off from their main income stream and thousands upon thousands of crew members and back stage workers faced a financial and existential reckoning.

The industry has seen such a fallout of talented professionals, venues, and ancillary industries it is still unclear of how this bounce back will really play out. Organisers remain understandably alarmed and on high alert, and will be until most of the globe is vaccinated.

We are yet to encounter the future financial fallout in terms of rises in insurance premiums, ticket prices, additional costs of keeping everything ‘pandemic-proof’ and the new safety demands of high-end artists, etc.

Where does this leave us?

All of this said, whilst we rebuild capacity, confidence and demand, virtual events are very effective and many events will continue to run this way event when all restrictions are lifted. We have seen this with events such as regulated meetings, professional development events, Annual General Meetings and events of this nature.

It looks like we need to make room for all types of event scenarios and solutions as our industry rebuilds best practices for the future market.

With some positive news, according to the latest report by Swift Digital, event organisers are more likely to look at putting on live or hybrid events now more than they were in December 2020. Oh, what a difference a vaccine can make!

So, the first part of 2021 is signaling the ‘slow shuffle back’ to live gigs alongside using digital and virtual performances. For instance, the Australian Chamber Orchestra Season has tapped into their virtual audience for the upcoming season. It stands to reason that by adding an unlimited increase to a gig’s capacity can mainline some critical cash back into rebuilding this broken industry. Afterall, one could think of it much like traditional broadcasting of sporting events – except the benefits go back to the event owner.

In terms of corporate events, conferences, expos and conventions, the hybrid event model is certainly still high on the list of how to move through 2021 into 2022. Using both live and remote streams for planned events is, and will be the safest way to go.

So, are you ready?