Working from home? Switch to the DIGITAL edition of FRONT of HOUSE. CLICK HERE to signup now!
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages

Glory Days!

Baker Lee • FOH at LargeJune 2020 • June 8, 2020

Illustration by Andy Au

The events and emerging information from the nationwide shutdown in March continues to happen at a rapid rate — so much so that it’s difficult to speculate or report about the ongoing medical and financial crises we are all experiencing without such musings being outdated by the time they are read. So be aware that these thoughts and reflections were very cutting edge — at least when they were written, a few weeks ago. Anyway, I’ll try my best to steer away from wild (or even mild) predictions regarding the future of our business, but that might be impossible, unless I ignore the reality of the C19 pandemic affecting the world’s health and economy.

‡‡         Many Questions; Few Answers

As with most businesses in the entertainment field including music, theater, restaurants, movies or any other occupation involved with social gatherings, we are all trying to figure out how to reopen and once again become responsibly viable. “Responsibly” is the working word here, since in all likelihood, normalcy will not be achieved until we can ensure that people can once again gather without the fear of contracting or spreading this virus. It’s this uncertainty that’s dropped a big wrench across our collective ground and neutral, causing an explosive halt to our once-vibrant industry. The questions on our collective minds are, “How do we repair the damage incurred by the shutdown,” and “How do we get the show going again?”

Many solutions to stopping or killing the virus are being investigated. These range from the unfathomable to the unauthenticated. Various paths to a vaccine are being explored, and information regarding a cure is being discriminated, disseminated and decimated — all at the same time. We may be closer to an answer than we were a month ago, but not necessarily near enough to have the required confidence to fully open and regain all that we have lost. At the same time, sitting around and waiting is taking a toll on our collective spirit and wallets, while inventive ideas such as drive-in and social distance concerts are being considered.

However, the answer as to whether or not our industry will return from this pandemic is a resounding “Yes,” yet the bigger question that remains unanswered is, “How?” Major players such as Live Nation and AEG predict the shutdown will last into 2021, and it’s hard to fathom how any of us can survive that long without a paycheck or an outlet for what we do. It’s also difficult to imagine an unscathed reopening of our industry and, without being too maudlin, I don’t see an immediate return to “normal” as we once knew it. The discussion for venues, equipment handlers, rehearsal studios, record companies and television studios is not only regarding new protocols, but new revenue streams as well.

As previously stated, experiments with new forms of concert-going are being discussed and put into practice with trial runs. The feasibility of social distance gatherings is being debated in terms of finance and practicality. We’re not even half a year into this worldwide pandemic, and our new reality of masks, gloves, six-foot buffers and constant hand washing is embedded in our collective consciousness. For those of us who are still employed, working remotely with Zoom conferencing has become the norm. To keep us entertained and informed, we have all been invited into celebrity home basements, office spaces, studios and living rooms by a list of luminaries that include newscasters, late night television hosts and a multitude of musicians streaming content over social media. Friends and acquaintances are sharing their performances via social media. In fact, the Chinese video sharing social networking service known as TikTok was the most downloaded app of 2018; now, in 2019 it has now become part of our lockdown lexicon.

I am not suggesting that streaming is necessarily the final course our industry will take in the near and distant future for live performances, but if it does become the new normal, there’s no certainty as to what it will look like, since there are probably new technologies being developed that are yet to be unveiled to the public. As with most people in the live event industry, I have spent most of my adult life on one side of the microphone or the other. While recording is rewarding, I find that there is nothing more exciting than a live show, but I am now the old guard, quite possibly holding on to the glory of days gone by.

‡‡         Uncharted Waters

Soon, a new generation of toddlers and newborns will be coming up the ranks and taking over where we leave off. However, where we leave off is still a developing story, as we are still in the infancy of this uncharted territory. We are currently in the beginning stages of figuring out how to get our industry up and running again with many questions and few answers. First and foremost is how to make everyone comfortable and secure in returning to their places of work, albeit an office, studio, venue, tour bus or warehouse. What will be the new parameters regarding cleaning and sterilizing rooms, venues and equipment? Will security protocols involve temperature reads, masks, gloves, facial recognition or a medical card verifying one’s health? What will be the practice in securing public restrooms, and how and when can a person enter one? Will extra cleaning crews be required to wipe everything down, or will UV light be used for sterilization? Just how much of a guarantee can actually be given to employees and event attendees to make them comfortable enough to gather publicly?

The other considerations to take into account are the financial ones, and how much it will cost to employ these extra security measures. What will be the price of doing business, and can that fee be allayed or passed on to the clients? How do we access a new revenue flow? Will there be a charge for online events? Will better apps be developed to enhance the online experience and, if so, at what price? Of course, we can consider that all of this is only temporary until there is a cure, but it could be as long as two years before said cure is ready to be delivered. By that time, there might be new protocols in place as well as newly discovered means for doing business and bringing in revenue. At that point, if these musings become reality and we are indeed entering a brave new world of live events, it might be difficult to reverse the course and return to what we will fondly recall as the glory days.

Meanwhile, stay tuned and stay safe.

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!