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How COVID-19 Changed Live Music

By: Liz Cahill 7/15/2021

When festivals began to announce their cancellations and venues began closing their doors in March of 2020, it was completely unknown what the future would hold in terms of live music events. The world of live music came to a complete standstill, leaving artists, venue owners, promoters and club employees alike wondering when and if the industry would come back. For music fans all over the world, the pandemic meant losing their outlet that to escape from their day jobs and other responsibilities, but for others it meant an indefinite loss of their entire income. As time progressed, the music industry began to slowly adapt to the new reality, and show an impressive resiliency in a time when so much was unknown. After many months of the music industry at a complete standstill, the industry began to adapt, and new ways to enjoy live music began.

Live Streams & Online Raves

The first major change was the emergence of livestreams and other online music events. These were a way for people to enjoy music from their favorite artists and even entire festival lineups, from the comfort of their own homes and in a socially distanced setting. Millions of people tuned into these streams, which not only help artists sustain themselves financially, but also contribute money to charity, helping support a greater cause while the world was hurting. These live streams gave the ability for any artist, small or large to reach a worldwide audience from the safety of their homes. These live streams also gave an opportunity for smaller artists to reach worldwide platforms with ease. Many Live streams were happening on a daily basis, and helping artists and fans cope with what was quickly becoming the new normal.

Drive In's

In addition, drive-in events began to rise in popularity. These outdoor events provided attendees with the ability to park at a venue with socially distanced pods and rave in a small group. setting. Hosting these drive-in’s meant that actual live music could be enjoyed for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic and all in a socially distanced setting. These events began to happen around the country and many fans loved the idea of an outdoor, socially distanced rave. However, Drive-in events quickly sparked controversy amongst the industry when images featuring mask-free fans from these events were shared, causing people to question whether these events were safe. In addition, the vast majority of the population was suffering from income loss during the pandemic and felt as though drive-ins were too expensive or a poor use of money during uncertain times. Many artists were also reluctant to play these shows, out of fear as to how safe it was for them to play and how it would cause fans to view them. As a result, these drive-in events fizzled out. Though they worked for a short period of time, drive-in shows were not a sustainable or preferred way to plays as the world slowly reopened.

Socially Distanced Events and Mask Requirements

As Covid restrictions loosened, indoor venues reopened according to CDC Guidelines, requiring masks, temperature checks, and even vaccination cards all while limiting capacity. Some venues took extra precautions such as limiting attendees to personalized pods that had to be purchased as a group ahead of time. These events sparked major controversy, with many fans ‘cancelling’ artists who decided to play indoor shows during the pandemic. By late June during the pandemic, these events became normalized in some states, whereas many others refused to open the doors to their venues until very recently. These events quickly sent rumors circulating around the internet, with people encouraging others not to attend after sharing positive COVID-19 tests on apps such as Instagram and Twitter in recent days following attending indoor events.


Regardless, this period of experimental times for venues paved the way for the gradual reopening of live music events. Despite major setbacks due to the pandemic, and the industry coming to a complete standstill, it is important to note how this made fans appreciate the music industry more, along with how the industry was able to adapt quickly to strict guidelines implemented by the CDC. As the pandemic progressed, those who worked in the industry have slowly gone back to work and local venues began to sell out shows again. The way the music industry handled COVID-19 just goes to prove that where there is a love for music and determination to make things work, the entire industry will adapt to stay afloat.

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