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May 7, 2020

‘Fan pods,’ masks and sprays: Live Nation plots socially-distanced concerts

Live Nation plots socially-distanced concerts amid pandemic


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Live Nation Entertainment Inc.’s investors may get a glimpse into the future from sales of tickets to see country-rock singer Travis McCready in what would be the industry’s first socially distanced concert.

Sales of passes to see McCready, frontman for the band Bishop Gunn, play an acoustic set in Fort Smith, Arkansas, on May 15 suggest a pathway for the return of live events. Concert organizer TempleLive is planning to implement a number of guidelines to comply with local restrictions including limiting the number of available seats so fans remain at least six feet apart during the show. Tickets are being sold by Live Nation’s Ticketmaster.

For Live Nation, the move comes at a critical time with the shares down 48 per cent since hitting an all-time high in February. The world’s largest concert organizer had been experiencing one of the industry’s best years before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered events globally.

At the McCready show, William Blair analyst Ryan Sundby said “fan pods” will consist of anywhere between two and 12 seats, cutting the allowed attendance down to 229 fans, or 20 per cent of normal capacity. Attendees will need to wear masks and have their temperature checked at entry points. Fog sprayers will be used to sanitize the venue, bathrooms will be limited to ten people at a time, and soap and paper towel dispensers will be touchless. As for the concession stand, food and beverages will be prepackaged or have lids, Ticketmaster said on its website.

While it’s unclear when concert touring may resume on a larger scale, Sundby said in a research note this week that these protocols shed some light about the how industry may be able to satisfy health authorities. McCready’s show is “a positive step, even if just a baby one, toward moving more shows back onto the calendar in 2020,” wrote Sundby, reiterating his outperform rating on the stock.