The competitors aligned with the biggest booking agencies in the country to mount a unified effort to address the situation. In a joint statement, executives from Live Nation, AEG, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), William Morris Endeavor (WME), Paradigm, and United Talent Agency (UTA) said they are working together to develop best practices to safeguard artists, fans, and staff in the concert industry.
“The world’s leading forces in live entertainment have come together to form a global task force to drive strategic support and unified direction, ensuring precautionary efforts and ongoing protocol are in the best interest of artists, fans, staff, and the global community,” the coalition said in a joint statement. “At this time, we collectively recommend large-scale events through the end of March be postponed. We continue to support that small-scale events follow guidance set by their local government officials. We feel fortunate to have the flexibility to reschedule concerts, festivals, and live events as needed, and look forward to connecting fans with all their favorite artists and live entertainment soon.”
Live Nation informed its employees that the suspension of touring activities would last through the end of the month and, other than a few shows Thursday and Friday, will be effective immediately while the organization figures out its next move. A source close to the situation tells Rolling Stone that the hope is that tours resume in April, though many large-scale tours such as the Rolling Stones, Robert Plant, and Justin Bieber don’t start until May.
The announcement comes at a time when the live-music industry is bracing for impact. The spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus that the World Health Organization recently declared a pandemic, has prompted government officials to limit large public gatherings. The South by Southwest festival was canceled last week over worries about large crowds, Coachella was postponed, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that gatherings of more than 500 people would be restricted in the state, just ahead of Billie Eilish’s concert at Madison Square Garden. (Rolling Stone is keeping a running list of COVID-19-related event cancellations.)
In a recent earnings call with investors, Live Nation’s president, Joe Berchtold, expressed confidence that COVID-19 would not disrupt the company’s business. “While we expect breakouts over the next few months, one of our strengths is we are highly diversified geographically,” he said. “Thus far we have seen no pullback and fan demand outside of specifically affected areas, and overall attendance is weighted over latter half of this year, with 70 percent of attendance expected in the latter half of this year.”
He said the most flexible thing to do from a company perspective would be to reroute tours. “More challenging is when the festival gets canceled on a Saturday afternoon,” he said. “Easiest economic challenge is to reroute and reschedule a show, no cost to us.”
Additional reporting by Ethan Millman