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New Post Pandemic Hurdles For Live Concerts

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(Hypebot) — Live shows and those that produce them are struggling more than the “Fans Return To Live” headlines would lead you to believe, writes Fred Jacobs.

By Fred Jacobs of Jacob’s Media.

If the COVID trend holds (and that may be the rose-colored glasses point of view), this summer promises to be an especially interesting one.

Especially for concerts.

Way back at the beginning of the Coronavirus (as it was known back then), we did a series of nine research studies among commercial, public, and Christian music radio listeners.  The first of these was conducted right after the virus broke out here in the U.S.  In fact, it was fielded March 31-April 2, 2020.  Even back then, people were articulate and passionate about what they were missing once stay-at-home orders were issued state by state.

Yes, nearly 21,000 radio listeners told us they were jonesing on personal interaction with friends and family.  But they were also missing entertainment activities – especially concerts and sporting events.

There was, however, a setback last week.  Mammoth WVH – Wolfgang Van Halen’s band canceled the last six shows of their Young Guns tour due to a COVID staff breakout.  Wolfgang himself continues to test negative, but enough of the crew is infected that the tour must be postponed.

While some consumers have ventured out, already taking in big arena and stadium shows, many have held out, waiting to see how the pandemic plays out.

Certainly, concert promoters, bands, and the touring ecosystem are ready to roar.  After two years of nonactivity, most musicians have a lot of touring ground to make up – not to mention many mouths to feed.   All over the country, markets are overbooking concerts and events – more than the average person has time for – or can afford.


A recent story in the Wall Street Journal by Neil Shah points out the average price of a concert ticket last year was $78 – up 14% from 2019.  And the inflation of the moment – especially food and gas prices – will make concert-going even more out of reach for the typical music fan.

Of course, the impact of the pandemic is still being felt.  In a normal time, about half of the industry’s touring performers hit the road, while the other half are in the studio or taking on other pursuits.  But thanks to COVID, a lot more artists and groups are on tour.

Fans are left with tough decisions to make, trying to figure out which show(s) they can afford.  Shah notes some of the biggest acts may benefit, while the middle and smaller tiers could be hurt as consumers go for broke and shell out big bucks to see megastars like Elton John, the Eagles, or Bon Jovi.

For local radio stations, the 2022 concert season represents a great opportunity to reap the benefits – IF (a big IF) they have the resources – money, staff, and interns – to meet the moment.

Here’s how:

  1. Ticket giveaways – This one’s a no-brainer.  It’s the chance a station has to go back to the basics with free tickets for the right shows.  Of course, using tickets as a way to extend listening and build the brand is better yet.  It’s difficult to stress how much this means to people – especially this year.
  2. Memorable presence at concerts – This means more than pulling up the van, opening the card table, and hanging out the banner.  Photo opportunities with station personnel or band backdrops will be popular – and shared all over social pages.  It’s time to brainstorm specific tactics and activities for each concert from a station’s core artist.
  3. Swag – Don’t laugh.  You may need a sponsor, but “backstage passes,” and other branded items could break through if they’re creative and well-done.
  4. On the air – In a world where everyone’s voicetracking nights, finding a way to go live with post-concert coverage (the old “concert echo”) will definitely stand out in a sea of automation.
  5. Embrace the joy – For most people, going to a concert is a huge deal.  They’re paying a lot of money (don’t forget parking, food and drink, babysitters, gas, and sometimes, hotels).  Chances are, they’ll be thrilled to see you, so give ’em hugs.

Concert season 2022 could end up being a case of radio to the rescue, especially if stations play the opportunity well.  That could even include a “check-in” with a ticket winner the next morning.  In many cases, radio staffers haven’t paid for a concert ticket in years.  Many may not be aware of what it even costs for a pair of listeners to take in a show.  The entertainment expense issue is a near and dear one to most people..

This summer promises to be a special one for so many people, aching to get out and reclaim their lives.

It’s a job only local radio can do.

Fred Jacobs founded Jacobs Media in 1983, and quickly became known for the creation of the Classic Rock radio format. Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys. In 2008, jacapps was launched – a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,300 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created – a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the “connected car” and its impact. Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media’s commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment. Fred was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.


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