Live Events in the Age of The Pandemic

The entertainment industry had its calendar all laid out for the year – movie premieres, festivals, concerts, and trade shows were scheduled well ahead. Then a virus came out of nowhere, overturning every such plan. Even when the coronavirus pandemic was just an epidemic (there is a difference between the two) events that involved visits from large numbers of attendees were postponed or cancelled one after another. One of the biggest live events that suffered such a dismal fate was the 2020 Summer Olympics – now it’s called the “2021” event, being postponed for next year. Everyone from DJs and rock bands to writers and motivational speakers is cancelling or postponing their live events to help flatten the curve and slow down the inevitable spread of the infection.

Will events still happen?

This year, events of all kinds were affected by the pandemic. The Razzies were held online, with the winners being announced on the event’s YouTube channel, the Canadian Folk Music Awards were postponed indefinitely, with the winners being announced on an alternative channel, probably one of the most popular streaming services available today, conventions ranging from Anime Boston to the Toronto Comicon, even the proceedings for the Holy Week in
Rome was affected by the pandemic.

Make no mistake, many of the events can still happen – but not in a form we’re used to. Pope Francis held an unconventional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing from in a deserted St. Peter’s Square, one that was broadcast on television, radio, Facebook, and YouTube – and it was seen by more than 11 million people around the world. After the cancellation of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, several tech companies have decided to hold their new product announcements exclusively online (these were already streamed live on the internet, so the only difference was the lack of a live audience). Google and Microsoft have also turned their major developer-focused events “digital-only” – both Google I/O and Microsoft Build will be broadcast online only, with no live audience.

But how about the events where a live audience is indispensable – like concerts and music festivals, for example?

The great unknown

The 2020 festival season didn’t have the chance to start yet – most major events are scheduled in a time frame between early spring and the fall. Some of them have already been postponed – the Glastonbury Festival was cancelled along with the Eurovision Song Contest, the Ultra Music Festival, and Tomorrowland. Others were rescheduled for the fall or even next year. Concerts have suffered the same fate: Justin Bieber pulled all his 2020 tour dates, Queen and Adam Lambert’s UK and European tour was postponed to next summer, K-Pop band BTS has
postponed it’s North American performances planned for April, and The Rolling Stones has also postponed its “No Filter Tour”, set to begin in May.

We are still at least a year or two away from things returning to normal – it will take at least this much time for a vaccine to be widely available. Until then, there is no way to predict where the pandemic will take us. But one thing’s for sure: this year will be lenten from the live events’ point of view.

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