The concert industry was given its first glimpse into how shows might look amid a pandemic. On Monday night, Arkansas concert venue TempleLive held the country’s first socially distanced show with headliner Travis McCready and offered insight into how promoters can hold concerts in the age of coronavirus.
Following legal pushback from Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the event was held days after it was originally scheduled and put an emphasis on safety measures. The more than 200 fans in attendance were seated in “pods” to keep groups at a distance of more than six feet apart, while staffers were on hand to check patrons’ temperatures upon entry and maintain cleanliness throughout the venue.
“This is the first step forward,” Lance Beatty, president of TempleLive’s owner Beatty Capital Group, revealed to Rolling Stone. “The fundamental question of this whole experiment is how to address safety and how to address the economics. What’s the impact on food and beverage? What’s the impact on the fan experience? That’s what everyone is sitting around, pulling the levers, trying to figure out. We’re charting new territory here.”
TempleLive opened up only 20 percent of its space to fans, which has become part of the new normal for social distancing in public. While the show was welcomed among concertgoers, the reduced capacity presents financial challenges for the industry.
“This impacts the artists, the venue owners, ticket sales, all the way down the line,” Beatty said. “I don’t care if you’re Kenny Chesney. If I’m a concert promoter, I can’t pay the same price [for reduced capacity]. All those adjustments are going to have to be made. Instead of a guarantee, I’ll give you 90 percent of the door. Or if it’s a $75,000 or $100,000 guarantee, how do I feel about getting that guarantee covered if I can only sell 225 tickets? That’s a $400 ticket.”
Despite the challenges, the Arkansas concert proved that the industry is willing to make adjustments as needed in order to keep fans entertained. Whether those adjustments mean more shows like McCready’s TempleLive gig or the growth of drive-in concerts from Live Nation, the industry is aiming for resilience amid trying times.