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Be Prepared for the New Normal

Chris Lose • LD at LargeMarch 2021 • March 4, 2021

Illustration by John Sauer – JohnSauer.com

I don’t have much to do these days but talk. I sit at my computer, daydreaming about the wonderful days of shows past. I let my mind wander in delightful reminiscence of audiences cheering, crowds roaring and fans dancing. I long for the smells of a beer-soaked lighting snake, a diesel-soaked loading dock and southern catering. After a few days of retrospect, my mind is forced to look forward to the future. I can’t help but wonder what kind of an industry we will be returning to after the isolation period. My monkey brain wants to go back to the old ways of doing things. My carefree optimism demands that we go back to packed houses with thousands of like-minded individuals wanting to let go and celebrate a communal life.

My rational pragmatism refuses to let me grasp so tightly to those outdated notions, though. I know that we will need to make some changes to move forward. Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, once wrote, “Change is inevitable in life. You can either resist it and potentially get run over by it, or you can choose to cooperate with it, adapt to it, and learn how to benefit from it. When you embrace change you will begin to see it as an opportunity for growth.” With that in mind, I hope you will allow me to indulge in some wild speculation and semi-informed forecasting. Here are some predictions towards what I think we can expect in the post-pandemic concert touring industry.

‡‡         We Will Prioritize Mental Health

The touring life does not lend itself to coddling and comfort. This current pandemic has exposed the lack of a sufficient social safety net in some countries. Too many people are living paycheck to paycheck out on the road. This exhaustive lifestyle paired with a lack of support can lead to frayed mental states. Life on the edge is figuratively one step from the depths of depression.

Future touring productions will be forced to deal with this reality. I foresee a prioritization of mental wellness checks, a willingness to make time for conversation, and acceptance of our fallibility as emotional creatures. This newfound respect will materialize in extended breaks, onsite puppy play-days, community building activities and open discussions between coworkers about family life and mental strains.

‡‡         No More Limits on Ticketing

Sold-out shows used to be a sign of victory. A sold-out show signified that a band had reached the capacity of that venue, and anyone who wanted to experience that show would be rejected. Thanks to modern technology and some brilliant innovation catapulted into the mainstream by this pandemic, we have broken down the barriers of any capacity limits. Once the capacity of an arena has been reached, the promoter or the band can make one phone call and enlist the services of an online broadcasting team.

With relative ease, half a dozen webcams, an audio input and a solid internet connection, a production team can extend the 20,000-person capacity of an arena to the unlimited capacity of the world wide web. The artists and promoters have already ensured the profitability of the show once the capacity has been reached. For the small investment of a live broadcast, they are almost certain to make even more by broadcasting that experience around the world. Concertgoers from every country will be able to at least catch a glimpse of their favorite artists from the comfort of their own home. This sort of technology will never be able to replace the real experience, but it will amplify the reach and scope of the performance.

‡‡         Vaccine Verification

Employees and audience members, alike, will soon become accustomed to a vaccine passport. With few exceptions for the immune-compromised and religious beliefs, concertgoers will need to provide proof of vaccinations for transmissible diseases. This will be available in app form and as a barcode that can be scanned at point of ticket purchase and at the gates to most events. This will be motivated by insurance companies and promoters alike. Until Covid-19 is a thing of the past, each profit-motivated entity will need to prove that their events are safe and that they have taken every precaution to protect their patrons. After a year of successive incident-free events, these regulations will be relaxed.

‡‡         UV-C Prevalence in Public Areas

Homo Sapiens are a relatively very clever species. We are very good at fighting against other creatures that seek to do us harm. We are especially good at using technology to devise tools to give ourselves the upper hand in each battle. Arrows, guns and tanks have been the predominate tools for battle in the past. However, we will need to adapt to a new enemy. The microscopic pathogens attacking us now need to be dealt with in a different way. We can use the power of UV-C to destroy and inactivate harmful micro-organisms. When UV-C irradiation comes into contact with a micro-organism, it causes a photochemical reaction as the radiation is absorbed. Damage to the micro-organism’s DNA ensues. Principally, the action of the absorption of the photon makes the microbe unable to replicate. We can use the power of light to protect ourselves and the audience. We will soon be seeing UV-C fixtures on loading docks, behind the bars, in public bathrooms and anywhere human interaction flourishes.

‡‡         XR will Become a New Norm

Extended reality used to be a niche that was complex and expensive. Only the extravagant producers had access to this technology. During the pandemic, augmented reality and extended reality has become cheaper, more affordable and widely accepted by the viewing audience. We are more willing to view live events through our own screens now.

For better or worse, we enjoy watching and filming live events simultaneously. The crowds of most major tours are already being viewed through the tiny devices in our pockets anyways. Future producers will finally embrace the fact that we are glued to our devices and use that to their advantage. We will be asking the audience to download band-specific apps to view the concert through.

The visuals will be so intensified that viewing the concert with our own eyes will seem boring and outdated. Instead of watching two people onstage with just a few lights and a P.A., the digital visualizations will include an army of dancing bears, spaceships landing, mushrooms pouring from the P.A. and digital fireworks exploding in the crowd. Extended reality will be the path to fully realizing the visions of artists who were unable to share their message through two dimensional visuals.

‡‡         Now What?

I have been on the phone with many people who are more intelligent than myself. These predictions are founded in the advice of well-informed experts in their field. If you are looking for a way to be a part of the future touring landscape, I recommend that you pick one of these predictions and prepare to capitalize on it. Please use this time to prepare for a new normal. We would all be wise to listen to John C. Maxwell when he says, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” Let’s grow together.

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