With the fall of mask and vaccination regulations, Covid rates are rising among musicians

From the TSA to the Coachella festival, your local supermarket to your local music club, mask and vaccination requirements continue to fall across the country, despite all the credible scientific evidence that another surge in the coronavirus is not only happening, but raging. Given that, it’s not surprising that touring music artists continue to reschedule dates as band members or crew test positive.

While there are no definitive numbers, one only has to look to social media to see dozens of concerts or tours that have been postponed or canceled because a band member or tour staffer has tested positive. That’s been the case since touring returned in earnest last summer, but there’s no question the situation has deteriorated in recent weeks — as per widely reported articles by Pitchfork and the New York Times about the ‘Dada Drummer’ of the musician Damon Krukowski was found. Substack and unfortunately mostly comments from countless artists Low and super chunkwho were forced to reschedule appointments. And after last weekend’s Coachella festival – the largest music festival in North America – it remains to be seen how many artists will have to cancel their performances at the second of the two-week event.

Some musicians have gone so far as to require, if not beg, their audience to dress up. “I’m not a big band,” says indie musician Sasami tweeted earlier this year. “If we get COVID and have to cancel shows, I’m totally FUCKED. If you love me at all, please wear a mask and buy some merch so we can keep touring.” At a Sparks concert at New York’s Town Hall earlier this month, the band insisted that the audience wear masks — most, if not all, but that was a Sparks audience in New York. It’s hard to imagine a similar scenario with many other artists or parts of the country.

However, while it’s easy to point the finger at local or venue minutes (or lack thereof) or major live entertainment companies, anyone who’s been to a concert in the past few months can’t help but notice the small percentage of people notice who wear masks. even in “awakened” cities.

“If the band are the only masked people in the venue,” wrote longtime indie band Superchunk, who have had to postpone several gigs in the tour due to Covid, on social media, “it is clear that this phase of the pandemic is yet to come give it a while.”

The problem runs all the way up – Elton John, Justin Bieber, Jon Bon Jovi, Kiss and Jazmine Sullivan are just five major examples that come to mind – but much harder on the wallet are the mid-level and indie Level touring acts, those who depend on live performances for a living and earn little income from streaming.

These artists also play much smaller venues than the world’s Elton Johns and Justin Biebers – increasing the risk of infection exponentially – and they tour with fewer people, increasing the impact if a member of the tour tests positive. A rescheduled or canceled date affects those artists much more than a superstar, who have larger teams (and therefore can handle the loss of a staff member or two much more easily) and can more easily absorb the costs associated with rescheduling.

“Every day I see one to five artists whose tours or dates are pushed back because someone in the band or crew has tested positive,” says Knitting Factory Management’s Brian Long, who owns indie artists Jose Gonzales, Bedouine and !!! cared for. among other. “As a manager, it’s very, very scary to see that.”

Mitski was forced to reschedule a headlining appointment at New York’s prestigious Radio City Music Hall along with two other shows “due to a positive test at the touring party”; and as noted by Krukowski in his Masks Are Off article published today, a partial list of the past two weeks alone in the indie rock world lists Bartees Strange (April 2), Car Seat Headrest (April 3), Low (April 8), Superchunk (April 9), Circuit des Yeux (April 11), Brian Jonestown Massacre (April 14), Spoon (April 14), Jon Spencer (April 16), Sea Power (April 18) April) and Bob Mold (April 18). 18) – and there were many, many more.

The costs when shows have to be rescheduled are daunting: “If a person on tour tests positive, you still have to pay for room and board and for a bus or other vehicles if you’ve hired them – and it comes to zero money for these shows,” says Long. “And,” he adds, “if the canceled show is a festival date” — which, like other “tentpole” dates on a tour, is often much more lucrative than club shows — “it can mean that a tour is suddenly profitable and suddenly unprofitable.”

All of this is at odds with predictions from Live Nation and other major live entertainment companies for the sunny touring season, which, along with so many other parts of the country, are “getting back to normal” despite overwhelming evidence and advice. CDC that we’re nowhere near back to normal.

During the company’s last conference call in February, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino predicted a “record financial performance” and “the strongest multi-year period ever for the concert industry.” Omar Al-joulani, co-president of touring at Live Nation, told The New York Times last week, “It feels like we’ve gone back to a much more normal pace and rhythm,” noting that up to 40 tours are in preparation for next year and beyond. (While a Live Nation rep noted diversity that the number of shows currently being rescheduled or canceled is within 1% of where it was in 2019, obviously this stat only covers Live Nation-sponsored shows.)

“Much of the live music industry is overzealous about pretending we’re out of the pandemic,” Speedy Ortiz vocalist and guitarist Sadie Dupuis told Pitchfork. “We’re leaving behind a lot of people with disabilities and illnesses, which isn’t a new problem — just a new way of expressing the ableism inherent in many venues since COVID.”

While a small number of venues continue to require proof of vaccinations and masks, in practice this is often much easier said than done: In some states, they could potentially run the risk of litigation for making this requirement, and mask requirements are extremely difficult to enforce when someone has a drink in hand – which is the main source of income for most venues. Add to that the fact that venues, like musicians, are recovering from two brutal years with no income, which keeps them from pissing off audiences (contributing to the significant number of people staying away from smaller venues in general).

In the long run, those who suffer from these shifts are mostly the people who support the public: the artists. “They’re the ones in the crosshairs, and they’re the losers of this situation — along with the audience,” Long says.

And like so much else over the past two years of the pandemic, we can’t wait for the authorities to solve the problem: the solution is ours. So without saying too much mask on.

About Gloria Skelton

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