By all accounts, 2020 was destined to be a banner year for the entertainment industry, specifically the music industry. SoCal was poised for several unreal shows. Overall, things looked good for everybody. After all, it’s been over a decade since the financial crisis, and the economy has experience long-term success. Wall Street has had the longest running positive ride in memory. Real estate markets nationwide were doing very-very well. The employment figures and GNP were also right where any great economy wants it to be. Then, the recent 2020 news cycle changed all that.
News started to filter in about a virus called Covid-19 (CV19 – aka Coronavirus) that was impacting Europe; and it was spreading like wildfire. That was when most of us started paying a little more attention to the evening news. The UK, and especially Italy were experiencing an unprecedented outbreak of the virus. It didn’t take long for everyone on the planet to recognize the two words we’ve heard for years as plot lines of Sci-Fi movies were becoming reality… those two words were GLOBAL PANDEMIC. Not only was there panic on the streets of London, but it turned into panic on the streets of Birmingham.
As the dust began to settle, the bigger picture started to emerge. Like the 2005 Bird Flu, the origin of CV-19 appears to be a city in mainland China; the Wuhan province. The pandemic has spread beyond all early models and has now impacted just about every place on the planet. The number of those infected as well as the death toll continues to rise exponentially by the day.
Sadly, like most news related topics the past few years, it didn’t take long for misinformation and the politicization of the pandemic to impact the social media airwaves.
For many, we seemed to have grown accustomed to and almost immune to the right versus left aspect of rumors that have found its way into our everyday conversations. Life went from real to surreal and back to unreal-reality when we got the news that the NBA postponed its season. That was followed by Major League Baseball (MLB) and other major sporting organizations doing the same.
For many of us, it didn’t become palpable until one of the largest states in the country locked down its residence. On March 15th when Governor Newsome ordered us to stay at home, making it the first state to impose a strict mandate on all residents to counteract the surge of new infections.
That was the day the Earth literally stood still for most Americans. Since then, states like New York have literally become a mirror image of early episodes of the Walking Dead.
Governor Gavin Newsom March 15, 2020
Going back to the California order, it basically closed most businesses not considered essential services and pursuant to the order, Californians were to stay at home. This ongoing order only allows residents to go outside for groceries, doctor appointments and exercise. All while keeping a safe distance from other residents (it’s a 6-foot rule know as social distancing). Similar orders have since popped up in just about every state with a few exceptions. The intent of all these federal and state orders is to do something called flatten the curve. In essence, this distancing and other protocols will help lower the infection rate and consequently lower the mortality rate. Then again, relaxing of some of these rules seem to be taking place nationwide, we’ll see how that plays out.
Los Angeles during a GLOBAL PANDEMIC | Urban Isolation
Video by The Berrics
The end game for these orders was simply to buy time. Time that is needed to get to a place where we can effectively engage in universal testing. That seems to be making progress each and every day. The final goal is to make it to a day when we have a vaccine. That too seems to be in our near horizon, but nothing firm just yet. For now, this virus doesn’t care what we’re doing or what “dates” we chose to open economies… or what we’re arguing about; it’s an equal opportunity Reaper.
The world is a definitely a different place today. It’s almost creepy to see places like Main Street Disneyland, the Strip in Hollywood and the Santa Monica Pier to be virtual ghost towns.
Soaring over California has a brand new meaning
Concert tour-after-concert tour started to postpone or straight out cancel, it brought a sense of new territory to our front door. We were slated for festivals like Coachella, Stagecoach, Cruel World fest and bands like Madness were coming to town. The Zombie apocalypse must have been in the horizon for a few people when Taylor Swift announced the cancellation of her show opening up SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
Despite the onslaught of bad news, human beings can be very predictable when it comes to how we react. In that respect, we are very different than any other species. Whereas self-preservation remains the quintessential character trait in most animals, humans are anything but the most reliable when it comes to that. For most part, the world has seen the best in humanity. We’re all doing our best to adhere to new rules. We’ve found ways to live and even help others during this really weird period in time. For most part, humans are at our best when things are at their worst. Our reality is when you check out the evening news, we’re not always seeing the best humanity has to offer.
Another sobering fact is the impact these orders are having. Americans are headed to the unemployment line in unreal numbers; Wall Street looks like a kick-ass bungee jump ride. What makes you shake your head is regardless of the assurances from politicians that the nations’ food supply is OK, we see cartoon-crazy lines at grocery stores. We see people still rushing to buy food and supplies as if they were stocking up for 3 months for their family of twenty. That aspect of our character goes back to a hive mentality and that primordial element of self-preservation, that’s something within us that just may never change.
As a result of the ongoing state of the nation, people seek a sense of normality to help us calm down. That said, music and entertainment have always helped us cope with our ups and downs. Throughout this crisis, the entertainment industry has literally been beamed away. Going to the movies and concerts is now a thing of the past. Going to our favorite bar to have a drink or have dinner or play some pool or watch a game is now a thing of the past. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Netflix, e-sports and other streaming services, or radio… yes, radio… we wouldn’t have any new content to take in and we’d most likely be losing our minds.
Nationally, crimes and auto accidents have dropped dramatically. Mostly, because of the stay at home orders. The downside is that domestic violence has risen sharply across-the-board. Clearly, until we get back to some sort of semblance of normal life, we need to do something to get through this. Something to keep our minds occupied; music and the entertainment may be our saving grace AGAIN!
Yes, some states are re-opening, but nobody can honestly predict how that will turn out. To see what normal life may look like, or when we might be able to consider seeing that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, we had a chat with Kevin Lyman. If that name sounds familiar, it should. He’s one of the most respected entertainment experts on the planet. Bottom line, when Kevin speaks, people listen.
Lyman is the founder and operator of The Kevin Lyman Group (fka 4Fini Inc). His organization is one of the premier live event production companies and brand strategy firms. His notable live production events included the Vans Warped Tour… yes, that Warped Tour. AND Yes, that same Warped Tour that Blink 182 sang about. Lyman is also an Associate Professor at USC’s Thornton School of Music. With these credentials, that’s why people listen.
Given the circumstances and plight of everything going on, we asked Kevin for his thoughts on a variety of topics related to the music industry, specifically “live concert touring.” This is the conversation:
When asked how serious this moment is for the entertainment business, he answered “it’s a big moment, we need to work on things collectively and not let this moment gets the better of us.”
We discussed the cost of putting on shows at the local level and for national tours. Lyman said “it’s the costs associated with putting on shows that has the biggest impact on how this industry will survive. The margins are so thin, we need to re-visit how we pay vendors, screen staff, cater events, and screen fans at shows in order to give everyone a measure of security… that will be a monumental challenge.” We both agreed that these are unprecedented times and it requires unprecedented action. Lyman went on “we need to make decisions that address our industry-wide issues now and going forward to ensure there is a tomorrow.”
When asked if this is Napster moment where certain companies are standing out? Lyman replied… “yes, we’re having another period where some companies and artist are seizing the day and setting a trend that may be around for years to come… e-entertainment, e-sports for example may be the new frontier.”
We discussed the streaming performances we see artists of all genres engaging in; and the virtual concerts venues are putting out. Lyman went on to say “some bands are putting on shows and selling merch. They are trying to make money not only for themselves but for others… we’ve seen it before, but nothing like this. If it proves to be profitable, this may be something we see regularly after this crisis is over.”
We went over some of the programs out there set up to help artists and companies: We agreed that depending on where you live, some states have established provisions within their unemployment programs to help artists. As for the federal programs, that too was geared to help the industry. The CARES Act was recently promulgated for that exact purpose. Then again, the SBA ran out of money, now it’s back…. but they may run out again; they may not be able to assist all that are in need. Lyman conceded that “it’s very likely some of us will not survive this.”
We touched on some of the events being held to help artists and venue employees. Some operators have stepped up, for example LiveNation has a very good program they set up, while Soundcloud also has a plan to support artists. Artists like Elton John, Willie Nelson and others have put on shows to help. The One World: Together at Home program helped highlight the need for assistance and put a spotlight on worthwhile charities that are making a difference.
When asked if he thinks fans will come out to concerts immediately, and will it be enough? He said… “nobody has a crystal ball and it’s not realistic to say anyone has all the answers. If we say it’s OK to go back to life as normal tomorrow like some areas are doing, some people will come out, that’s for certain. There are the die-hard band supporters, and then there are the people who just want to get out. That may work for some bands and some venues, maybe even for some tours. But, will it be enough to support the entire industry… not likely.”
He went on to say “look, nobody was prepared for this. You can plan for staff not being able to come in, you can plan for a show canceling here and there; but you can’t plan for an industrywide-wide shut down. That’s not something anyone could think would ever happen. When it’s all said and done, we’ll need the masses to come out.”
We shifted the conversation. We asked if the industry can regroup and maybe simply push back everything to later this year? He explained, that the talent for most festivals are spread out. Many artists are part of several tours, and to cover many shows over a few months and bunch them all up may be difficult scheduling at best. If the live music industry tries to kick the can down to later this year, it’s possible the industry could be setting itself up for a different type of show related issues. If that happens, that may be something fans will have a major problem with.
We then asked what would it take for the masses to come out to shows?
He explained “looking long-term, for the industry to survive, we’ll have to make the needed changes, and as mentioned, the masses need to come out for the industry to rebound. The only way to do that is to have universal testing, and a vaccine. The vaccine will give people the sense of security that they can go back out and do the normal things we do. That’s not an industry thing, that’s a human thing, we want to feel safe going out to a show….I hope that’ll happen sooner than later.”
We asked in today’s environment, what opportunities exist?
He said “I think this could be the moment for online companies to make a difference in the marketplace. There’s always opportunity to be creative and provide a service that is part of the solution and be profitable at the same time. The industry needs to bring in young people to bring new skills to the table and help look at new ways to market ourselves and draw in fans in ways we just didn’t consider before.”
We asked if he believes the industry can rise to the challenge? Lyman said, “I think we can survive this, and if we do it right… we might be a better industry when it’s all said and done.”
We ended our chat with asking the question we’re all thinking…. are there any plans for another Warped Tour (maybe a 30th anniversary show)? Lyman said “right now we’re riding this out, but I’m confident we’ll get through this. We don’t have any plans at the moment, but we haven’t ruled anything out either.”
What’s the takeaway? For the music industry and life in general, it’s hopeful life may get back to some sense of normality, hopefully sooner than later. Our reality is not certain, we don’t know what tomorrow brings; the situation is fluid and can change in a blink of an eye. What is certain is we are all working together to try to get through this moment. If history has taught us anything, we can get through hardships and music has always been there for us, and it will deliver us again. It just may take a little longer than we’d like.
What to do in the meantime? We’ll see what happens with the Hella Mega Tour and SoCal HOEDOWN. Until we get back to “normal”… we need to stand by our favorite bands, local venues and the hands that support the bands. buy music and merchandise, donate to their online shows and most of all; and do what you can when you can.
“I never thought it would last this long, I should be a schoolteacher somewhere“