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More than half of live sector believes 2021 will see return to full capacity

More than half of live industry professionals believe the sector will return to full capacity in 2021 as compared to 31 per cent who say the comeback won’t happen until 2022, according to a new survey.

Pollstar and VenuesNow’s 2020 State of the Industry Survey, the largest live industry study of its kind, found that when breaking down 2021 by quarters, most pegged a full capacity restart to late in the year. Twenty eight per cent said the industry will return in Q3, while 14.6 per cent put the comeback in Q4. Meanwhile, 14.7 per cent admitted they “have no idea” when the industry will return.

The survey, which was conducted between August 23 and September 7, included a cross-section of the live industry, with nearly a quarter, or 24 per cent, of all respondents and the largest sector, working in the venue business.

Despite continued hope for a 2021 return, 66.5 per cent of industry professionals said that their greatest concern on reopening is that shows will be cost prohibitive to produce, followed closely by 63 per cent who worry fans will be afraid of large gatherings.

The industry’s other concerns included 45.6 per cent who fear fans won’t be able to afford tickets, while 44.2 per cent say larger festival gatherings and stadium events are over, and another 42 per cent believe large indoor shows are done.

With these concerns in mind, 72.4 per cent of all respondents worried about their company’s ability to survive COVID-19. The largest group, 31.2 per cent, said they could last another 10-12 months if business conditions do not improve, while 23.9 per cent gave themselves four to six months. When that figure is added to the 13.7 per cent who answered one to three months, more than one-third of all respondents say they will be out of business in six months or less. More than 67 per cent of all venue respondents said they have lost between 76-100 per cent of their business due to the pandemic.

Due to the live events shutdown in March and the slow return of distanced events, 38.6 per cent of all respondents said they have taken on “significant debt” in the wake of the pandemic. In addition, 56.2 per cent say they have asked for or received government assistance such as Payroll Protection Program funds.

In response to the financial struggles, 49.6 per cent said they received some form of unemployment benefit, 30 per cent are deferring bill payments, 28.9 per cent have received low-interest loans. Additionally, nearly 23 per cent, or 261 respondents, checked “other”, with a variety of financial programs mentioned including non-profit grants and loans, compensation from FEMA, CARES Act Funding as well as Live Nation’s Crew Nation and The Grammys’ MusiCares.

The survey also highlights an eagerness for the industry to return to work, with 60 per cent stating they would go to work immediately if health guidelines are followed including 17.6 per cent who said they would return to work now unconditionally. When health guidelines are added, that figure adds an additional 43 per cent.

The eagerness to return to work is strengthened by 75 per cent of all respondents who said they are prepared to restart the industry at less than full capacity. More than half of businesses said running at less than full capacity could work “somewhat for their business” while another 21.6 per cent said it would work.