Musicians and concert staffers are begging fans to get vaccinated so live music can make a full return
- Concert promoter AEG will require proof of vaccines for all its US venues starting in October.
- Live Nation is leaving it up to individual artists to determine vaccine requirements.
- Insider spoke with four musicians about vaccine mandates and their return to touring.
The Brooklyn-based indie band Bandits on the Run had been preparing for months to perform at NYC's Little Island Storytelling Festival this July.
Then, just one week before the event, a recently hired collaborator tested positive for COVID-19 while the band played at an outdoor concert in the middle of Virginia. He had been fully vaccinated since May.
The trio raced around Virginia looking for COVID-19 rapid tests, only to discover the closest ones available were located hours away in New York. Out of precaution for their fans, the Bandits decided to cancel the Little Island performance.
"It was kind of a slap to the face," guitarist Adrian Blake Enscoe told Insider.
Regina Strayhorn, one of the band's singers, said she immediately worried about her parents, who had planned to attend the concert - they are immunocompromised and hadn't seen her perform live in almost a year.
"If I don't want my parents to come, I don't want anybody to come," Strayhorn said. "It broke our hearts because we lost a lot of money ... we really wanted to connect with the fans who made the effort to come to see us."
After the scare, the band worried that the live music industry's return to touring would be more complicated than they originally anticipated. Like most smaller-scale artists, the Bandits couldn't afford another shutdown.
"The nature of our business is that live performance is where the money is made," Strayhorn said.
The one change the band thinks could save the live industry music industry: vaccine mandates. "All vaccinated events and vaccine mandates work," Enscoe said. "They put everybody's heart at ease."
On Thursday, AEG Presents, one of the largest concert promoters in the world, announced it will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for ticketholders and crew members at all its US venues starting in October.
AEG owns or is partnered with venues including New York's Webster Hall and Brooklyn Steel, The Roxy and El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, and The Theatre at Resorts World Las Vegas.
The promoter also puts on popular festivals such as the Firefly Music Festival and Coachella.
AEG's biggest competitor, Live Nation, is leaving it up to individual artists to determine vaccine requirements. However, smaller artists who open for larger bands don't always have the power or authority to make that decision.
"I'm not in a position to headline, so things are just so completely out of my control if I want to make moves to build my career," singer Mariel Loveland told Insider. "But if I make that choice to exclusively headline ... I'll just be playing to the same people I've been playing to."
"I feel like it's my full responsibility to protect the people who are coming and keep them safe," Loveland added.
The global live concert industry lost more than $30 billion in 2020 due to COVID-19, according to Pollstar's year-end report. Now, musicians and crew members are begging fans to get vaccinated so live music can recover.
"Nobody wants to lose out on more money than they already have," Loveland said.
According to Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago's public health commissioner, 90% of Lollapalooza music festival's 385,000 attendees were vaccinated. She said the city has seen "no evidence" that the festival was a superspreader event.
"We have come to the conclusion that, as a market leader, it was up to us to take a real stand on vaccination status," said Jay Marciano, CEO of AEG Presents. "We realize that some people might look at this as a dramatic step, but it's the right one."
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