How individuals around the world are responding to getting back to in-person events
After nearly 18 months, the events world is being revived bit by bit and we couldn’t be more excited. From country to country, a little more optimism surrounding the reemergence of events is high and event professionals are seeing a glimmer of hope to get back to a bit of normalcy soon. Artists, entertainers, athletes, event organizers, staff and fans are all equally as eager to get back to the hustle and bustle of live events and overpriced stadium beers. Week after week, festivals are announcing 2021 dates and selling tickets in a matter of minutes or hours. Leeds sold out in just over 24 hours. Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival tickets were all nabbed in just minutes. Ticketmaster online traffic increased by 600%. These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg and prove how serious the revenge attendance will be. This summer is going to be a wild one.
We have collaborated with a number of individuals across the world, each of whom are involved in the events world in some way-be it an event professional or someone who just loves attending events as much as we do. From Australia to Canada, we've reached out to people around the globe to hear about their current event experiences and get a sense of how willing they are to get back to the event scene.
In Australia, events took a brief hiatus but have come back in full swing as if nothing ever happened. In Canada, events are pretty well non-existent as sports teams migrated south to the US for the season or played behind (mostly) closed doors. Throughout the US, events have made a comeback slowly state by state, each with different restrictions. Finally, in the UK, it looks like the golden date for events to return to full capacity will be achievable by June 21 (Phase 4 in their reopening roadmap).
We connected with Gail from Australia, Stef from Canada and Simon from the UK who each offered some interesting insights. Gail is a mother, a nurse and season ticket holder for Australian Rules Football. Stef is a Graphic Production manager for BaAm Productions in Toronto and works with various sports leagues across North America like the MLB, NHL and NFL. Simon, an artist manager located in London, would be working on at least 50-60 shows between tours and festivals in an average year. Clearly 2020 had different plans for almost everyone.
Let's take a trip down under where events have resumed at full capacity after only a brief stint of being shut down. The events that most of us experienced for the last time in 2019 are back in Oz, almost like they never left. There was a time when crowdless events were a thing but that was rather short lived. Gail has been one of the lucky ones to be able to get back to her regular fan duties and cheer on her team, all without any sort of restrictions or feelings of uneasiness.
“Events are currently at full capacity. We had a recent lockdown where sporting events went ahead without crowds and then resumed at 75% capacity followed by 100% capacity. This was due to a COVID transmission in the community.”
Have you returned to attending games? How did it feel?
I returned this year at the start of Australian Rules Football and it was great to be back. I did not feel unsafe due to the very low risk here.
How do you feel things have changed while attending an event?
It's different due to capacity restrictions in the enclosed bars and member rooms. Otherwise it's mostly normal.
Having the exposure you do as a frontline worker, did it make you feel differently about attending an event in the current climate?
No. Being in my job, we have all the most up to date information and guidelines and I was in complete agreement with the management of large events. I never felt unsafe attending.
Normally, he would find himself hopping between jobs in Canada and the US throughout the year. Now, he has been travelling to Tampa and Buffalo predominantly, with a few other stops along the way elsewhere in the US.
“With travel restrictions and lockdowns still in place and seemingly no end in sight, the event world has all but disappeared in Canada since the beginning of COVID”.
Stef's day job gave him a unique perspective having experienced both fanless and full capacity events. He attended both the Super Bowl and the Toronto Blue Jays home opener in Florida and despite being around a large group, he did not feel uneasy but remained mindful of keeping himself and others safe. The overall feelings by other fans differed dramatically depending on where he was, from a ‘business as usual’ vibe to other fans being a little more cautious. With the few opportunities he has had to attend events over the last year and a half, he feels encouraged to get out and attend as many events as possible when the time comes.
While on the job at an event in the current situation, how do you feel things have changed?
Atmosphere has changed predominantly in response to added safety measures – both from a build side but also a patron side. Social distancing measures dominate planning from a worker perspective but also limit the number of patrons allowed (ex: cannot fill stadiums due to social distancing).
Would you be likely to attend an event once they reopen as an attendee?
Depends on the event but most likely (admittedly I don’t attend many events in my personal life but given what has transpired I may go to everything I can).
I would attend any event that even remotely “pique-ed” my interest simply from being isolated for so long. What would deter me is a poorly planned event in a confined mis-managed space.
What was the general reaction/overall feeling from the other fans in the US?
For the fans, it seemed “business as usual” once inside the event space. The only real difference from a patron perspective is wearing a mask and being spaced out.
It’s clear that Simon isn’t only eager for events to come back for the sole purpose of his job, but for his and everyone else’s well-being. More than a year of being at home with limited cultural and artistic exposure takes its toll on everyone.
"I’d love to see [Reading and Leeds] go ahead, run smoothly and essentially be the event that marks the return of major live music events."
Simon claims to not be a regular clubber, yet is ‘itching to get back in the nightclub’ and is ready for a major culture boost. In fact, he already got his hands on some tickets to a few summer shows.
How confident are you that the current plan to reopen the UK’s event scene by June 21 will happen?
I think it will happen in some capacity, but I don’t see packed sweaty venues being a thing until later in the year. I think limited capacity events will get the ball rolling and we’ll build from that. Many venues still don’t have the guidance as to what is expected of them when they do open their doors. Mandatory mass testing and limited capacity would be very difficult for many venues.
The events in Liverpool seem to have been a success but whether the practicalities of running events like this can be rolled out nationally remains to be seen. Most importantly though, these events need to happen, if anything to bring hope to people who have been stuck at home for 14 months and counting. We’ve lost a year of culture! Not just music but the arts in general. It’s so important for people’s well-being that we need to get back to some sort of normality soon.
Have you and your clients started planning for summer/fall shows already?
Yes. We have a client who has a few shows, the first of which is early July. We also have UK tours planned for a couple of our artists in November/December.
I’m cautiously optimistic! Part of the reason for booking later in the year was to give ourselves the best chance of knowing for sure if events will go ahead.
Do you have any plans to return as an attendee this year? If so, how do you feel about being at an event with a large group of people in the current climate?
Yes. I think I’m ready. I have tickets booked for a few events, mainly outdoors, from late July onwards.
It’s clear that after months of not being able to attend sporting events, festivals, nightclubs, we are all hungry to get back to it and are counting down the days until we can feed that appetite. From all corners of the world, everyone seems to look forward to the day they can get back to packed stadiums or outdoor festivals (if they haven’t already). When asked how they feel the events scene will change in their respective countries after a pandemic year, here’s what our respondents had to say:
"Restrictions on crowds in indoor venues and a larger focus on hygiene. I do not foresee as drastic a change in Australia as in other countries since we have not had large outbreaks like many other countries. If this did occur here I would think it would be many years before things ever return to normal."
"Short term, I think the event world will now have to consider the ‘standard’ COVID protocols and practices to ensure everyone’s safety. I think the event world will thrive when it returns (as seen from sports and festivals in the US) albeit the demographic will shift to a younger crowd. Long term I think it will go back to normal. The question is “when?”. The lack of business over the past year has forced many businesses to close shop–production companies, A/V companies, anyone that relied on year-over-year events to financially stay afloat. From an anecdotal perspective many of our suppliers or partners were unable to weather the storm which has forced them to find new sources albeit at increased costs."
"I guess we need to ease back in. Not rush to get venues open without proper guidelines. Last thing we want is a repeat of the last 14 months. Another lockdown would cripple many venues, some may not come out of this period unscathed. Grassroots venues are dependent on being open almost every night of the week. In terms of the punters, I think the demand will be huge, initially at least. Starved of culture, people will want to get back out and socialise and see bands and go clubbing! The appetite is there!"
There you have it. From every corner of the world, every fan and event professional is anxious and ready to return to life as we once knew it. Each country has had different responses with regards to the pandemic but the one thing that remains consistent is the willingness for people to get back to live events.