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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And could it really be today that music festivals and summer concerts are back? The music industry, of course, had to pause on such activities when the pandemic began. But now that more people are being vaccinated and the CDC is easing some restrictions, the industry seems poised to get the game going again. Lineups for major festivals such as Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and Governor’s Ball have been announced among others. What will concerts and festivals look like this summer and are they safe? Andrew Limbong, NPR arts reporter, comes to us now to talk about all of this. Andrew, thank you very much for joining us.
ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: What’s the matter, Michel?
MARTIN: You know, it wasn’t that long ago that the idea of people gathering safely and openly, say, for a big music festival, seemed far-fetched. But more and more festivals and casts are announced every day. Are festivals really back?
LIMBONG: By and large, yes. You know, you mentioned some of the most popular ones that are getting national attention. Well, like the medium sized local festivals and the niche festivals that relate to specific genres, these are back too. This is not a small one, but Rolling Loud in Miami, the rap festival set to take place in July. They have Electric Zoo: Supernaturals in New York for EDM heads. And like Louder Than Life in Louisville for hard rock. So, you know, short answer – yes, absolutely.
MARTIN: Do people really buy tickets to these shows? And I might also be wondering whether, conversely, if there is pent-up demand for live music shows, what does that do with ticket prices?
LIMBONG: Yes. So people buy tickets to these shows. What it has to do with ticket prices I think you know when I compared everything that is still frozen in amber from 2019 onwards, so the prices are still the same. A few people in the concert and ticketing industry I’ve spoken to say it’s a little early to say how COVID is affecting the ticketing industry or its economics. We just have to wait a little longer for that.
MARTIN: How do festivals plan to explain this new normal, right? Will there be extra precautions that people haven’t seen before?
LIMBONG: Well every festival says it requires additional COVID precautions, but what that means is pretty different. Many of them, if you check their websites and try to look around to find the COVID precautions section, don’t really have that much information other than being in contact with public health officials. And we’ll update you as soon as we know more. Nobody I’ve seen requires any kind of social distancing. But a couple of organizers I’ve spoken to indicate that you’re out. If you want to stay away from other people, the option is to do so when you are uncomfortable and toss in the pit with everyone else. I think that’s a form of security.
From what I’ve seen, all they need is the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago masks. This is the case from now on, because that can also change. And many of them really just pushed back a few months to start like September or October. And that gives them a little wiggle room I think if, as you know, they need to keep an eye on the vaccinations, if there are any discrepancies they have to stop or, you know, just to be in touch with the local communities to see this what’s going on.
MARTIN: How about if you had to provide proof that you were vaccinated to get in? Does anyone do that?
LIMBONG: Yes. Lollapalooza is actually the interesting thing to see here. You will need either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test every day you attend. So if you are out all weekend you will need to take a COVID test three to four times. So the festival is in Chicago, and it’s the city that is actually working on its own form of app or database or whatever to try to detect vaccinations or a negative test.
But we don’t yet know exactly what it will look like. In this city at least, using Lollapalooza to get people to vaccinate is a big step. City Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, teased her this week that she could start vaccinating herself with opportunities for Lollapalooza tickets and the like. So that’s part of their big Vaxx push.
MARTIN: I have the impression that musicians and fans are happy to come back after live music events have basically been on hold for over a year. But is anyone concerned that this is too soon?
LIMBONG: Not that I saw. I mean, everything indicates that the outdoors is the way to go, at least for COVID precautions. And like I said folks, you know whether or not people are the best barometer of security, they are ready and ready to buy these tickets. You know, at least to get out of the summer festivals, you take a star like Garth Brooks who has sold out concerts that are either stadiums or even indoors, but that’s like later in the year, everyone is like really ready to see some music .
MARTIN: This is NPR arts reporter Andrew Limbong with the latest on the summer concert series. Andrew, thank you very much for joining us.
LIMBONG: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.