Live Nation CEO Says U.S. Music Festivals Could Reopen by ‘Mid-Summer’

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Live Nation has taken a timeline provided by the British government as an all-clear for the summer festival season, selling some 170,000 tickets this week to three major U.K. summer festivals that were put on sale this week — and according to comments made around the company’s grim 2020 earnings report on Thursday, it is optimistic that North America can be on a similar pace.

On Monday, the British government set a timeline that states large music events in the U.K. can resume at 100% capacity beginning on June 21 — effectively the start of the lucrative summer season. Shortly afterward, Live Nation put up 100,000 tickets for the Reading & Leeds festival, scheduled for August 27 and 29 — all of which sold out by late in the week, according to Music Business Worldwide. The company also put up tickets for the dance-music-based Creamfields event, taking place August 26 to 29, on sale this week as well, announcing that the event has sold out 70,000 tickets in 48 hours, “record-breaking time.”

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Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino trumpeted these statistics on the company’s earnings call late Thursday, which counterintuitively balanced understandably disastrous financial results for 2020 with a soaring stock price — it is considerably higher than it was a year ago — and unvarnished optimism for the future.

Asked during the call about when large-scale concerts might resume in the U.S., Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said, “Every day we seem to have a new state or country talking about when they’ll open up, so we’re feeling more optimistic than we were a month ago,” he said. “Lots of artists are calling, looking at how we start up in July, August, September. So for right now, we still believe we’ll have enough open in the U.K., Australia, Canada and the U.S. to keep what we have on the books in amphitheaters booked for now. We might have certain states that might not be ready, but we have enough states and enough artists willing to play the open slots if we get to that level in the right markets.

“So as long as these states open up to the right capacities,” he concluded, “we can start in midsummer and in the southern U.S. we can go all the way into November.”

Rapino implicitly noted that things will not as clear-cut in the U.S. — where no similar timeline has been set by the federal government, and such decisions may be under the jurisdiction of states or even counties

“[We] think we’re better off waiting for a high bar capacity moment in most of the states to ramp up and talk to the artists about getting paid properly,” said Rapino, adding that the prospect of a 75%-plus capacity re-opening in the largest U.S. markets was “within sight.”

Live Nation made a bold statement of confidence earlier this month by placing rescheduled tickets for the Weeknd’s “After Hours” tour — which was originally scheduled to launch last May, then moved several months later, and now scheduled to begin in January 2022 — on sale, with several dozen new dates added.

Needless to say, many other factors will have to be in line for major U.S. festivals to reopen, and in the hours after Live Nation’s comments, insiders were mixed on the prospects of a return to summer concerts on the scale that Rapino and Live Nation suggest.

Variety will have more on this story as it develops.

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