From the decline of virtual and the rise in demand for live to the staffing shortage and the return of touring, here's what we expect to see in the world of live events this year

Will it be a year of comebacks? Will summer festivals be bigger and better than ever before? Will international touring be revived? At the start of the year, the answers to each of these questions looked very uncertain, but every week that goes by, hopes for a normal 2022 continue to rise. Although last year was a significant improvement over 2020, we’re getting the sense that this year’s live entertainment will rival pre-pandemic times. Let’s dive a little deeper into our expectations for the year ahead.

We had to start somewhere

2021 was a year of pushing boundaries to get the industry back on its feet. Event organizers gained a lot of valuable insights by conducting test events and have discovered new ways to plan and execute their events with more confidence.

Despite the recent announcements regarding the removal of restrictions from countries around the globe, many event professionals still feel a responsibility to fans and crew to take additional safety measures. New protocols tested and perfected via these pilot events – we’re talking cashless payments and ingress/egress solutions – will become the norm. Organizers have already realized significant benefits and attendees have adapted to these changes as well.

Some crucial findings from pilot events include:

The industry saw the need to pull together, share resources and report findings, both positive and negative. This newfound “we’re all in this together” mindset will provide a foundation to continue creating new practices and developing better strategies surrounding safety and general operations in the months and years to come.

Keeping up with the demand

The appetite for live events will continue to grow. We’re itching to get back to in-person events and 2022 will be one for the record books. Reports are showing that tickets have been selling like crazy and bookings for large venue shows increased by 30%. Live Nation’s 2021 Q4 report indicates that at the end of last year, there were already 45 million tickets sold on Ticketmaster for shows this year. According to Live Nation head honcho Michael Rapino, “every major venue type – arenas, amphitheaters, and stadiums – have pipelines indicating double digit growth in show count and ticket sales relative to 2019 levels.” Summer festivals are confirming dates and lineups with shows selling out within hours, some even adding dates to accommodate the increased demand. All signs point to a massive comeback.

It’s going to be a good year for ticketing companies. More and more shows are being added to the calendar every day. With an uptick in the number of events, more tickets are becoming available. Even though we will probably be seeing a hike in prices, this won’t deter those eager fans to shell out the money to get their hands on a ticket or two. Afterall, they’ve been saving up for two years!

The increase in demand from fans, and the industry’s willingness to oblige, will add to the strain on the dwindling numbers of independent venues. While this may be a welcome change from shuttered doors and empty stages, we expect there will be new entrants coming onto the scene to pick up some of the slack. In the meantime, those that remain will likely branch out and be seen hosting more of a variety than usual.

On the road again

2022 could be the biggest year for touring…ever. Having suffered significantly from travel restrictions, it looks like this year we will see an easing on travel around the world, allowing tours to get back on the road.

At the end of last year, Pollstar indicated that there were a whopping 25,509 shows on the tour schedule for 2022, with ticket sales for this year jumping up 12% compared to 2019’s record setting year. In 2021, we saw an 800% increase in the number of shows compared to 2020 and a 60% increase from 2019. This year, we wouldn’t be surprised to see even greater numbers.

With the higher rate of vaccinations, more insights into running events safely and borders opening up, it’s probable that we will see a resurgence in international tours. Nonetheless, we have seen some artists making the call to postpone until next year and domestic events will still dominate, at least until the end of 2022.

Live…on-screen

By necessity, new technologies were embraced by event professionals, and the reality is, they’ll likely stick around long after COVID becomes a thing of the past. The pandemic forced the industry to adapt and embrace digital technologies which became an effective way to run safer events.

Going forward, completely virtual events won’t exactly become obsolete, but they probably reached their peak in 2021 and we don’t expect to see them gaining in popularity. Don’t get us wrong, virtual events have proven to be extremely successful in certain circumstances, specifically when it comes to educational seminars, but when it comes to conferences or entertainment, we’re not going to see virtual events continue to thrive.

Throughout this year and into the future, we will see a lot of events still opting to go hybrid in order to engage with more customers and reach a wider audience. With a much lower cost and reduced risk, it’s a great alternative to reach a larger group and allows organizers to keep up with the high demand for more events.

Which brings us to the Metaverse, but more on that later.

The staffing crisis

It has become clear that the staffing crisis will be one of the greatest hurdles to overcome. The labor shortage will continue to have a domino effect until the industry can be repopulated. With the pandemic having caused so many to close their doors for good, this will lead to heavier competition for venues and suppliers alike as events return. With a reduction in availability, organizers may need to look beyond their usual contacts and leverage new talent.

The resulting demand on suppliers and crew could lead to long wait times which means organizers will need to be meticulous during the planning phase. Suppliers will have more work to do and fewer employees to get it done. Events piling up and overlapping means finding enough trained staff will be a significant challenge. And, there will be a hefty price to pay. Wages will need to be higher to attract trained talent and fill out skeleton crews.  Additional investment will need to be made to entice talent to return and train new recruits.

The year of insurtech

So what does the year have in store for us in terms of insurance? Well, it’s going to be a strong comeback year and experts believe that 2022 will be the year we see major improvements and a great recovery. Although, due to a decrease in capacity because of the hits the industry has taken the last two years, we will see higher premiums and higher demand. Premiums for event cancellation specifically could expect to rise by at least 20%, as well as in many other areas. Understanding your insurance policy and the options available to you is going to be more important than it has ever been.

Insurtech solutions will be the way of 2022. Insurtechs are focused on building new solutions that meet customers’ needs and streamline processes meaning we will likely see a higher demand for these tools.

Even though there are no insurers that offer COVID-19 coverage, event professionals have become more attentive to the idea of insurance and it will become a priority if it isn’t already. There are only going to be more options and improvements in tech tools in the insurance space as well as policies that match event risk.

Anything else?

As we mentioned earlier, we saw a lot of new technology emerge in the virtual events space in the last two years. While we’re not expecting that development to continue, with event organizers more willing to embrace new technologies, we do expect to see event technology continue to grow. Along with this growth, there will be more investment made in startups that are developing tools to improve the fan experience, reduce unnecessary contact and minimize environmental impact.

Along those same lines, extreme weather events are unfortunately becoming all too familiar to us. Record breaking temperatures, drought, wildfires and severe storms are a real threat to live events and have taught event organizers that leveraging historical weather data will be of utmost importance going forward. Mitigating these risks will help avoid the logistical nightmares and safety risks that could arise with extreme weather events. Utilizing this data will become essential to ensuring an event’s success and startups are poised to provide organizers and insurers with the technology they need to make informed decisions throughout the entire event planning process.

That brings us to…

Working towards a sustainable future. We will see a heavy focus on the ‘green’ movement that has become a major point of discussion in the industry from this day on. Event teams and fans alike are making changes today that will lead to achieving long-term goals of reducing carbon emissions, waste and plastic use, among other things. Some industry leaders have already banded together to sign the Green Pact and we could see others step up and commit to the movement by contributing to these types of creative solutions.

Buckle up because we are expecting big things in the events world this year. All signs are pointing to a great revival of the live shows, sports, conferences and festivals that we’ve all waited so long for. Although we’ve managed to navigate through some tough terrain, there are still some obstacles that we will need to overcome this year, but it’s nothing that we can’t handle. If anything, we are more prepared now than we were last year. Gone are the days of empty stadiums and pilot events. We have a lot to look forward to in 2022 and we are ready for the big comeback live events.