Although we’re more than nine months into the pandemic stateside, the live events industry is nowhere close to a full recovery. If Elton John rescheduling his farewell tour until 2022 is any indication, then 2021 could be another wash — or at least significantly reduced from pre-pandemic activity. 

With the United States reaching record-breaking days of deaths, hospitalizations, and new cases, the next few weeks stand to be a critical, trying period as we head into the winter. According to a recent CivicScience study, more Americans are confident they’ll congregate with family or friends for Christmas than they were the week before Thanksgiving, amid CDC advisories to limit indoor gatherings. But a vast majority of consumers are still uncomfortable with attending a major public event right now.

To give you a sense of the pandemic’s stasis, a majority of Americans surveyed by CivicScience in April said they would be ready to attend a major public event within five months of coronavirus lockdowns lifting. Perhaps the expectation was that lockdowns might lift when the virus was largely suppressed, but a similar survey conducted over the past month finds that 61% of Americans only expect to feel comfortable at a major public event in six months or more.

Younger Americans remain the most eager to attend concerts and sporting events. Tracking with the heightened risk factors, just 9% of adults 55 and over are comfortable with attending large events right now.

Even if vaccines become widely available early next year, major live events like concerts and theater stand to be among the last industries to resemble pre-pandemic attendance. The data show that even Americans who would receive a COVID-19 vaccine when available, 69% report they won’t attend live events for six months or more.

Virtual Events

Early in the pandemic, there was a concerted effort to use the internet to fill in the gaps for a wide array of lost in-person events. A number of touring artists took to live streaming platforms in an attempt to recoup indefinite lost funds; authors took up speaking engagements from their living room. In some industries, it figures to reshape how conferences function post-pandemic — but in other cases, the live stream is no replacement. 

Despite an increasing number of events migrating to Zoom, it remains a fairly niche scenario, with just 19% of adults surveyed by CivicScience claiming they’ve watched a live performance or event on social media.

But people within the minority of watching live events through social platforms have a few tells. For example, they over-index in their average daily time spent on social media. Thirty-seven percent of those who have watched a live event on social media in the last six months report two or more hours of daily social media usage.

In addition, these virtual event goers are far-and-away more likely to share entertainment news on social as well as celebrity gossip. So, ahead of a potentially rough year of recovery for the live events industry, there are certainly some points of leverage for media and entertainment companies to fuel interest and fill “seats,” even if it’s a couch or desk chair.

Industry stakeholders remain hopeful, despite a potentially arduous season ahead for industries dependent on packed physical spaces. And while virtual events haven’t gained too much steam yet, there is still room to grow.

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