Big events are back

Big events are back

2021-06-10 11:00:00
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When cities and states across the country began issuing stay-at-home orders in March last year, Live for live music turned to tracking cancellations rather than promoting shows. But as vaccination rates rise and governments relax their pandemic regulations, the music marketing and production company's site is returning to normal.

"For the first time in longer than we can remember, today's update does not contain any cancellation or postponement," reads a recent Live for live music blog post.

The event ecosystem is recovering faster than expected. Event professionals see the number of events and the number of events reaching and possibly surpassing pre-pandemic levels in 2019. But that recovery is dependent on a number of factors, including how effective the vaccine program is, the nature of the events themselves, and where they take place. are.

Event industry leaders repeatedly pointed to pent-up demand to illustrate their assurance that events would succeed in a post-pandemic world. After spending a year and a half at home, many people are more than ready to attend festivals, concerts, sporting events and other large group pastimes that they missed. So far it seems they are doing their best to make up for lost time.

What data on current events suggest

June is on track to be the first month since before the pandemic began that events in the United States will bring in more than a billion dollars, according to new data from the demand forecasting company PredictHQ. The total economic impact — an estimate of spending on travel, food and lodging for the biggest 2,500 events this month, including sports, concerts, conferences and exhibitions — is expected to be $1.6 billion, which is more than it has been in over a year.

Zowie Bowie's Chris Phillips Performs at a "Downtown Rocks Again!" event in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 1.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

People attend a live concert during the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on April 17.
Rory Doyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Events like this have been virtually absent for the past year, as health measures banned many group activities. The June numbers represent a significant improvement and are likely to increase as cities and states continue to roll back their capacity and mask restrictions and add more events to calendars.

“Capital is available, there is pent-up demand and events are generated for people,” PredictHQ CEO and co-founder Campbell Brown told Recode, describing what he called the “perfect demand storm.”

The country's top ticket sellers are also welcoming the change.

“Demand is roaring back in a way that exceeds our expectations 60 days ago,” Akshay Khanna, managing director of StubHub, told Recode. "It is driven by confidence in the vaccine program and the sheer number of vaccinations since February."

StubHub expects the number of events and ticket sales in the second half of the year to be similar to and possibly higher than 2019, given this huge demand and the increase in the number of events announced.

“If I understand the pent-up demand and the human nature, I would be surprised if this was not the case, assuming the vaccine rollout continues and the number of cases continues to decline,” Khanna said.

Live Nation, the events company that owns Ticketmaster, recently reported that major tour dates booked for next year are up double-digit compared to 2019, which was a record year for the company. But so far this year, according to PredictHQ, events have not yet reached their pre-pandemic levels, neither in number of events nor in overall attendance.

According to PredictHQ, the number of festival visitors scheduled for the second half of the year will reach 87 percent of 2019 levels by the end of May. Meanwhile, concerts and conferences are only 53 percent of their attendance in 2019 for events listed every May. Sports events were slightly higher and rising at 58 percent.

As more events are added thanks to the success of current events, those overall attendance numbers will continue to grow, PredictHQ says. The company expects that the number of visitors this year will be higher than 2019.

Exactly what that recovery will look like depends on several factors.

What comes back and why?

The most promising events so far are, of course, those that take place outdoors. Outdoor events, such as music festivals, less risk of Covid-19 infection and therefore recover faster.

A number of popular multi-day music festivals that draw tens of thousands of people are back on the calendar this year. Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Electric Daisy, Astro World and Rolling Loud all sold out in record time, according to Ticketmaster. Garth Brooks just had the fastest-selling stadium show ever, seating 50,000 at Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium sold out in less than 30 minutes.

“The strong demand proves that fans are eager to get back to the experiences they love – it feels like we have a record-breaking event every week,” Ticketmaster president Mark Yovich wrote in an email to Recode. “For some of these record-breaking sales, we have millions of fans queuing for just a few hundred thousand tickets.”

And those record-breaking events aren't exclusive to outdoor venues. In May, the world title fight between Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders took place attendance record at an indoor boxing event in the US, with more than 70,000 fans showing up at AT&T Stadium in Texas. According to StubHub, it was one of several events that exceeded pre-pandemic attendance levels by double digits and sometimes more.

Singer Angela Aguilar performs ahead of the Canelo-Sanders fight on May 8 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Omar Vega/Getty Images

“Concerts are likely to see the highest demand as people have been able to watch sports – even if you can't attend, you can turn on the TV and watch,” explains StubHub's Khanna.

"I haven't been able to see a concert and there isn't really an alternative — I can listen to Spotify, but it's not the same as seeing Billie Eilish in person," he said, adding that comedy shows and theater also don't have a great alternative to in-person events. .

Indeed, Eilish and rapper Bad Bunny had some of the highest sales on StubHub in recent months.

And the inauguration of new stadiums for teams like the Las Vegas Raiders and the LA Chargers is also fueling demand to attend games there.

At the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on April 17, attendees walk past a Covid-19 public health safety sign.
Rory Doyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Attendance at festivals and exhibits in Nevada and Texas is already above 2019 levels, according to PredictHQ.
Rory Doyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Smaller local events also come back in person. During the pandemic, Eventbrite, the event management and ticketing website Eventbrite, saw a spate of virtual events, many of which focused on issues such as health and wellness, self-care and career development, according to the company's chief marketing officer, Tamara Mendelsohn. Common searches include food trucks, car shows, live music, and comedy.

"We see in the data this resurgence of a desire to get back out there and celebrate the fun stuff and do the quote-unquote that you couldn't have done in person last year," Mendelsohn said.

The success of various events also has to do with the policies of the individual states. According to PredictHQ, attendance at festivals and exhibits in Nevada and Texas is already above 2019 levels. In Texas, those numbers are more than double what they were, as they accommodate pent-up demand and organizing events from other states. Meanwhile, PredictHQ data shows that California, which has stricter policies and ranks among the bottom 10 states in event return, has about half the attendance in 2019.

“You see that somewhere like Nevada and Texas, which lifted their mandates a month and a half ago, have accelerated a lot of event rebooking rates,” Brown said. “And so what we expect to see is when California comes from their mandate on June 15, you will see an acceleration in event booking towards the end of the year.”

For some people, the precautions that events require will make all the difference.

Many locations across the country require a vaccine passport or proof of a negative Covid-19 test to participate. New York's Excelsior Pass Wallet was recently the most downloaded health and fitness app in the US, according to app measurement company App Annie. Other precautions such as social distancing, mask-wearing and limited-capacity events are likely to become less common as local and state governments withdraw their mandates.

In fact, it's possible that events will soon look a lot like what they used to be.

"I think this is going back to pretty much what it was before the pandemic, but with better security measures," said Brown of PredictHQ. "But if people want to wear a mask to a game, I don't think they will be banned for that either."


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