Live entertainment plots post-COVID recovery

 

Australian fans of live entertainment have heeded the desperate "hang on to your tickets" pleas of promoters and artists as the industry plots a fresh calendar of major gigs and events to kick off the second half of 2021.

Fans starved of live shows have kept more than 80 per cent of tickets to productions rescheduled in the wake of the pandemic shutdowns, according to TEG CEO Geoff Jones.

As Australia continues to control the community spread of COVID-19, promoters are now courting international acts for post-COVID tours with the wishlist topped by AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, Kylie Minogue and Robbie Williams.

 

Bruce Springsteen releases a new record next month and his Australians fans are already speculating about his return to our shores. Picture: Kristi Miller
Bruce Springsteen releases a new record next month and his Australians fans are already speculating about his return to our shores. Picture: Kristi Miller

Local live heroes including Midnight Oil and Powderfinger are also weighing up potential tours for next year.

Jones said the sporting hubs employed by the NRL and AFL to complete their 2020 seasons - and the incremental increase of crowd sizes - gave the live industry a blueprint to entice international artists back to Australian stages.

The COVIDSafe model employed by events including Van Gogh Live! and Pixar Putt are also buoying the confidence of Australians to get out of the house for entertainment.

 

The COVIDSafe exhibition Van Gogh Alive! has brought fans back to live entertainment. Picture: Supplied.
The COVIDSafe exhibition Van Gogh Alive! has brought fans back to live entertainment. Picture: Supplied.

"The response to events like Van Gogh Alive! has been phenomenal - even before it opened, it extended the season to Christmas because of the demand," Jones said.

"In our (TEG) yard, the Pixar Putt mini-golf and the Lego exhibition have done two and a half times more tickets than previous times.

"There's pent-up demand for live entertainment because of cabin fever."

Jones said fans had held on to "several million" tickets to events next year, with Delta Goodrem's tour next April enjoying its biggest sales in locked-down Victoria.

There is also huge anticipation for Tame Impala's December dates, with fans crossing everything they will go ahead.

 

While international acts including Rod Stewart, Backstreet Boys and Simple Minds have confirmed new dates for their postponed tours, fans of Harry Styles and Stormzy are still waiting for their November concerts to be rescheduled by their overseas agents.

Fans have been assured by ticketing agencies their funds remain safe and available for refunds if events have to be further postponed or cancelled.

Jones agrees with the projections of fellow promoters Michael Gudinski and Michael Chugg that international artists are not likely to be able to come back to Australia before mid 2021.

In the meantime, WA is experimenting with new festival models which "quarantine" fans into hubs with their own food, drink and toilet facilities around a revolving stage.

"If we keep going on the trajectory we are on now with the spread of the virus, we would be able to create a hub around an international artist as they have with sporting teams," he said.

"These are sensible people and they want to perform and I see Australia benefiting from the fact we are seen as a safe haven compared to other countries and we have tried and tested models for events."

 

Pixar Putt mini-golf has been a hit. Pic Annette Dew
Pixar Putt mini-golf has been a hit. Pic Annette Dew

 

But to get the live entertainment industry back on its feet after more than seven months with bigger shows by Australian artists, Jones said venues will need to open their doors to more people.

"There have been great announcements from state governments increasing crowd capacity at small to medium venues but music gigs are only commercially viable at 100 per cent," he said.

A big test of the Australian industry and fans will be the Great Southern Nights ambitious program of 1000 gigs in NSW for AusMusic Month in November.

The first round of concerts and ticketing details are expected to be announced on October 8.

Organisers are working with the state government to establish what quarantine protocols will be enforced on interstate artists booked for Great Southern Nights concerts, such as The Veronicas, Tones and I, Tash Sultana, Missy Higgins and Paul Kelly.

Jimmy Barnes may have been a guinea pig for the hub model having self-isolated with his family for two weeks before travelling to Darwin for his first concert since February on Saturday.

Originally published as Live entertainment plots post-COVID recovery