More venues are adding vaccine, mask mandates. Will they hurt or help the return of live music?
New rules demanding proof of vaccination, a recent negative COVID test, and masking before entering a club or concert have been growing exponentially in recent days.
While clearly needed to help stop the spread of the deadly virus, will new COVID regulations help or hurt the recovery of live music?
Cities and venues large and small are taking a variety of new measures to help keep fans, staff, and artists safe.
A sampling of new live music COVID restrictions:
- Concertgoers will have to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or recent negative test results to get into a show at iconic Minneapolis venue First Avenue and its sister venues effective immediately. Because Dayna Frank who runs First Avenue is also the president of the influebce venue and promoter group NIVA, other venues across the country are expected to do the same.
- The Ardmore near Philadelphia is requiring that patrons mask up “between sips and bites,” but leaves any vaccine requirement to each artist performing.
- Concert giant Live Nation is demanding that masks be worn backstage and offering free testing to artists and crew, but any requirements for ticket holders will follow local guidelines.
- Effective this week all indoor guests at the City Winery chain of music venues will need to provide proof of vaccination or show a negative Covid test within 72 hours to enter all indoor spaces.
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new proof of vaccination requirement for most indoor events in New York City including clubs, concerts, restaurants, movies, plays, and gyms starting August 16.
Capacity Restrictions & Ticket Refunds
As of this writing, no states or cities are requiring that venues reduce capacity as they did during much of 2020, but some are doing so voluntarily to put more distance between patrons.
A major wrinkle in many of these new plans is how to handle ticket refunds for those that test positive or can’t verify that they’ve been vaccinated. So far, no clear pattern of how venues and promoters plan to handle refunds has emerged.
But as I wrote last month when new COVID cases began to rise, the greater threat to the return of live music may be fan fear of this new more virulent strain may more than new restrictions.
Whether are not these precautions being put into place by promoters and mandated by governments will make fans feel safe enough to go to the live shows they’ve been missing remains to be seen.
Either way, the Delta variant is proving to be a major speed bump on the road back for in-person live music.
Bruce Houghton is Founder and Editor of Hypebot and MusicThinkTank and serves as a Senior Advisor to Bandsintown which acquired both publications in 2019. He is the Founder and President of the Skyline Artists Agency and a professor for the Berklee College Of Music.