The live event industry has been halted momentarily – with venues and promoters searching for new ways to keep concerts alive amid the pandemic – though one European promoter believes that the industry will make a full return.
Professor Peter Schwenkow, founder and CEO of Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG), told Pollstar that out of his 40 active years in the concert industry, he hasn’t experienced anything comparable to the ongoing crisis. He explained that right now, “we’re fighting a war on two fronts at the moment, one against the virus and one against the bans and restrictions that need to be fulfilled to obtain approval.”
Schwenkow went on to explain that DEAG is doing “comparatively well,” as they’re insured against event cancellations due to a pandemic in their markets. While 3,000 to 4,000 events may cause trouble rescheduling, the company won’t be hit financially. Schwenkow remains optimistic about DEAG, but as for the industry as a whole, he believes restrictions for large-scale events will remain in place for quite some time.
“I spend between two and three hours per day learning more about this virus and the restrictions imposed by the people in power,” Schwenkow told Pollstar. “My thesis is that people will only lose their fear of visiting live events, once we have vaccinated enough people by March, April, next year, at the earliest. We’re talking about the biggest hit any sector had to take: since mid-March, we’ve been the first out, and we’ll be the last in after at least 12 months.”
However, the virus is changing each day. Schwenkow said that it’s hard to decide how to move forward – with drive-in concerts or other social-distancing events – as there is still a lot of uncertainty regarding the virus. DEAG has some concepts in mind, but they’re still in-the-works.
“Live requires closeness,” Schwenkow said. “And we’ll only have closeness again, once the virus is under control or we have vaccines. I’m convinced there will be vaccines, but I’m even more convinced that there’ll also be meds. We as an industry need to return to the situation, in which people aren’t afraid of visiting events anymore.”
While Schwenkow is worried about the current state of the business, he said that he knows “it will never go down.”
Schwenkow isn’t the only one optimistic about a full return; founder and CEO of Encore Live, Walter Kinzie, believes that new innovations will help keep the industry alive right now. Live Nation already announced that it would test crowdless concerts and drive-in shows this summer, while festivals are taking opportunities to hold digital events. These innovations will help bring mass gatherings back to the industry in time, Kinzie said.
The World Health Organization has recently implemented new guidelines for mass gatherings amid the pandemic, which calls for concerts, music festivals, and sporting events to connect with local and national health authorities for risk assessment.