Survey: 55% of insiders believe 'full capacity' concerts will return in 2021

Brian McCollum
Detroit Free Press
Crystal Fox of Atlanta takes photos of cell phones lit during an Aretha Franklin tribute concert at Chene Park Amphitheatre (now the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre) in Detroit on Thursday, August 30, 2018.

Just more than half of professionals in the U.S. concert business, about 55%, expect live music to be “back at full capacity” sometime next year, while 31% predict that won’t happen until 2022, according to a just-released survey.

Still, about 60% say they would work a tour or show now if health guidelines are in place — including 18% who would do it unconditionally.

The 2020 State of the Industry Survey, conducted in recent weeks by the concert trade magazines Pollstar and VenuesNow, is the biggest of its kind since the coronavirus outbreak kneecapped the events business.

The survey, which polled more than 1,350 concert professionals nationwide, gives a glimpse at the industry’s thinking half a year into the pandemic. Respondents ranged across the live-music business, including venue managers, promoters, production staff, performers and artist managers.

"While clearly there is a lot of angst and concern regarding the realities of both our social issues and the future business of live, there is also much hope and optimism that this industry we love can not only return to greatness, but also return as a more diverse and equitable business than ever before," said Ray Waddell of OVG Media & Conferences, which runs Pollstar and VenuesNow.

More than 75% said the government has "definitely not" given proper consideration to the sports and live entertainment industry, compared to sectors such as airlines, hotels and restaurants.

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Big majorities also anticipate a host of new protocols once concerts do return, including increased cashless and touchless technologies, fan screening and sanitization measures. About 72% anticipate reduced capacities and social distancing.

Substantial minorities showed concern about possible fundamental changes to their industry, including 44% worried that events of 50,000 people or more might be over for good. About a third think general-admission seating is finished, and two-thirds worry that shows will be cost-prohibitive to produce.

Fans cheer during the Greta Van Fleet concert at The Fillmore Detroit on May 22, 2018 in downtown Detroit.

Opinion was split in thirds on the future of ticket prices, evenly divided on whether they’ll rise significantly, drop or stay the same.

The concept of streaming concerts — which came to fore during the early pandemic days — got a mixed response. Nearly half do not expect those digital shows to be a major factor once live concerts are back, though 44% said a hybrid of streaming and in-person events will emerge.

About 73% of respondents said they are concerned about their own company’s ability to survive at this point, with about half saying they don't expect to make it if conditions don't improve within the next nine months.

Meanwhile, the State of the Industry Survey also gauged concert professionals' takes on socially related issues.

While 41% think the social unrest across the U.S. this spring and summer was unrelated to the shutdown, nearly a third said frustrations about being unable to attend concerts and sporting events played a role.

The industry "can do better" at achieving racial and cultural diversity, 52% of respondents said. About 47% said the same about gender diversity.

Detailed results from the 2020 State of the Industry Survey can be viewed here.

Contact Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or