In a rare show of unity among usually fierce competitors, live-entertainment agencies and promoters including AEG, CAA, ICM, Live Nation, Paradigm and UTA have formed a task force to strategize and coordinate a unified response to the spread of coronavirus and its growing impact on the touring business, according to multiple sources and media reports.
While the task force had made no statement at the time of this article’s publication and the involved companies have made few public comments, as more events are postponed or cancelled — including the South by Southwest Conference, Coachella, the Ultra Music festival and Winter Music Conference and North American tours by Pearl Jam and Neil Young, among a rapidly growing list of others — the need for leadership and a concentrated response is rapidly becoming apparent, particularly after the cancellation of the NBA season on Wednesday night and other sporting leagues on Thursday. The wait-and-see approach that most reps spoke of off the record when contacted by Variety in recent days is clearly becoming inappropriate under the circumstances.
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A source tells Variety that the task force was formed late last week and has been holding conference calls several times per day. While the source was not on the calls, it spoke of a top music executive at one major agency telling company staffers that its stance was not to advocate for its clients to cancel or postpone dates, but rather to support its clients’ decisions, pointing to a successful two-night stand by a major artist this week at a major metropolitan arena. At the same time, the executive noted that the company is subject to the decisions of the municipalities of the venues in which its clients are performing or scheduled to perform.
Another topic the group is addressing is the demand on venues that will take place when re-routing postponed tours. Acting optimistically on the assumption that many spring or summer tours will be moved to the fall, the carefully laid plans for all major music tours — which are routed months if not years in advance — have been thrown into considerable disarray and may require an unprecedented level of cooperation by the agencies. Indeed, by Thursday certain artists, including Cher, had announced rescheduled dates at the same time as they’d announced the postponed ones.
While there have been major disruptions in the touring business due to mass shootings and natural disasters, a nationwide disruption on this scale has not been seen since the weeks following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The source said a statement from the task force could be coming as soon as Thursday afternoon.
While several outlets have published dramatically worded articles about the decline in stock prices for Live Nation, MSG, Eventim and other live-entertainment companies, their decline has largely been in line with that of the stock market — which is indeed substantial but hardly affecting only those companies.
Still, executives from most companies with whom Variety has spoken took an optimistic tone, noting that they will take a big financial hit in the short term, but all expect business to resume when the virus — and, just as importantly, the panic — are under control.
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