A Year Without Live Music

Emel Barry

     The experience of attending one of your favorite artist’s live concerts is something that you will remember for the rest of your life. The artist steps out on stage and suddenly, for the rest of that night, nothing else matters except the music and having fun with the people around you. As someone who is very passionate about music, I have attended many concerts in the past and it has become one of my favorite things to do with friends and family. 

Music is completely universal, and live music is so special because it is one of the only things that can unite thousands of people together no matter what culture, race, gender, beliefs, or language they speak. Being in a room full of strangers would normally sound intimidating, but at a concert you all share a common bond over your love for the artist and live music in general. It entails a judgement free zone in which you can connect with the people around you and be yourself. 

In October of 2019, I attended a Twenty One Pilots concert at Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia. I camped out for a few days in hopes of getting front row at the show with a bunch of friends from around the east coast who I had met through the band. That was always one of my favorite parts about going to concerts, it gives you the opportunity to meet new people and make lifelong friends. When we finally made it to our spots in the front row, it was time to wait for the show to start. I was able to make conversation with some security guards who worked for the arena, and it was really cool to ask them questions about their job and hear what it is like from their perspective, to see different crowds of people every night. It was also very interesting to be able to see just how many people are involved in the production of a show. Stage crew, tour photographers, lighting crew, audio technicians, security guards, are all going back and forth to make sure the show runs smoothly. After the show started, I was having so much fun with my friends and I remember thinking, “I never want this to end.” Little did we know, this would be the last time we would be at a concert for a very long time. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken many things away from us. We were forced to conform to a new lifestyle which includes social distancing and mask-wearing, and one of the biggest changes we have had to face is the restriction of big social gatherings. Back in March of 2020 when the pandemic first hit the United States, any events involving large crowds were cancelled almost immediately. Ever since then, the global live music industry has been at a stand still. It was one of the earliest industries forced to shut down, and will most likely be one of the last to reopen. Any artist that was currently on tour, or had an upcoming tour planned, had to cancel everything. For example, Harry Styles had just announced a world tour in March that was planned for summer and fall of 2020. He had to reschedule his North American and European tour dates for 2021, and we are still unsure if these shows will be able to happen. 

Employing hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and estimated to be worth more than $30 billion annually, the live music industry is one of the biggest industries in the world. When 2020 began, the industry was set for a record year of revenue, but the pandemic obviously had other plans. The global concert business lost $9.7 billion in ticket sales alone, with another $30 billion in sponsorships, concessions, merchandise, etc., according to trade publication Pollstar. As a result of this, many venues and arenas have been put in a tough spot and some are even being forced to shut down completely. There are so many different jobs involved in the production of a live event. Think about how many people are working in an arena for a single event: from the stage teams to the janitors in the restrooms. Security guards, photographers, concession dealers, workers selling merchandise, bartenders, box office attendants, etc. These are all jobs that have been lost due to the lack of live entertainment. 

Thousands of live tour staff members around the world are now struggling financially. In an effort to help with the burden caused by the pandemic, Live Nation launched a $10 million “Crew Nation” fund that will benefit the venue and touring crews that are unable to work during this time. Live Nation released a statement about the fund:  “Live music inspires millions around the world, but the concerts we all enjoy wouldn’t be possible without the countless crew members working behind the scenes. As COVID-19 continues to put many concerts on pause, we are extending a helping hand to the touring and venue crews who are in great need of support.”

All proceeds from the Crew Nation fund will go towards those involved in the live music industry that are in need right now. Many of your favorite artists have donated and teamed up with the Crew Nation fund, including Coldplay, Justin Timberlake, Post Malone, Harry Styles, Billy Joel, etc. Twenty One Pilots even released limited edition merchandise for purchase in which all proceeds went directly to the fund. You can learn more about how you can help at Crew Nation Global Relief Fund, where you can donate directly, or purchase merchandise. Those who are out of work right now can also apply for relief on the website.