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Post-Coronavirus, How Will Live Sound Go Back to Work?

How will the live-sound industry have changed when it comes out of its coronavirus-induced hibernation?

New York, NY (March 17, 2020)—With the coronavirus continuing to spread throughout the U.S., live events and the production industries behind them have come to a standstill. Live Nation and AEG Presents have suspended tours, states and localities are enacting increasingly stricter guidelines nearly daily in an effort to curtail the virus’ spread, and for many in the live sound industry, there’s little to do except wait for things to change.

First in the minds of many industry pros is the question of when touring will resume. “Everybody’s talking right now with a magic number of two weeks—‘When we come to April 1, we’re gonna evaluate it,’” said Jack Boessneck, executive vice president of Eighth Day Sound (Highland Heights, OH). “I don’t know what they know that I don’t, but hopefully they know something.”

Coronavirus and Pro Audio: Developing News

When the industry does start edging back to work—whether, as seems increasingly unlikely, in early April or later down the road—what will that scenario look like? What new processes or regulations will be in effect? How will they be determined?

A key factor will be how the different stakeholders coordinate their efforts to establish guidelines in the coming weeks, bringing their insights to the table and sharing them. “We collectively—the promoter, the venue, the tour, the insurer and others—need to start thinking about how do we go back to work,” said Event Safety Alliance chairman and president Jim Digby. “Is there a day in the future where we’re taking the steps of putting temperature sensors at the doors and monitoring our guests’ fever level? Are we sanitizing all the surfaces that that many touch—bathroom doorknobs, the top of the barricade? … Can we proactively as a community start creating solutions—which by the way, is what we do—that might put confidence back into those who are monitoring the health of our risk exposure?”

In some corners of the events and touring industry, stakeholders are already starting to explore what needs to be done to create safe environments for production personnel, artists and crowds. Aiming to maintain confidentiality, Scott Carroll, executive vice president & program director of Take1 Insurance, shared, “I can attest through attendance that a small entertainment organization or division was whiteboarding these kinds of show-ready responses for when things do turn around, looking at what they need to do visually, effectively and specifically to work with their equipment differently, and to work with the public differently—because obviously everybody on the events services-side deals with the public in some way, shape or form, either directly or indirectly. They’ve already been whiteboarding those things to get ready, so individual units within the entertainment sector are already doing that, and we should help that—we should help promote those discussions.”

While involved communication between industry stakeholders will help get the interests and ideas of all parties to be considered, that process will also potentially satisfy the concerns of legislative bodies that could impose potentially less-than-informed regulations.

“It’s great that individual units are [developing guidelines] and that’s healthy for that individual unit, but I don’t believe it makes a strong enough statement to the community at large,” said Digby. “This is the time for the entertainment sector to unify and share information, much like the World Health Organization does with the disease. We need to share information about measures that are best practices that can get us closer to the day we’re back to work, and then work together as a community through whatever outlets we deem necessary…. The planning is taking place. I know that the Big Five promoters have gotten together and are putting some guides for themselves internally. We can’t forget to think about the people who actually push the buttons and roll the cases out of the trucks either, to ensure that the entire supply chain is involved in the process of mitigating this risk.”

What changes will come remain to be seen, but for now, the live sound industry can only impatiently wait for things to revert to business as usual. As Eighth Day Sound’s Boessneck half-joked, “My hope—this is my biggest fear—is that come April 1, everybody decides to go back out on the road, there’s a giant spike in the industry, we’re all busier than hell and there’s not enough equipment, not enough people and we’re just back to scrambling as usual.”

Eighth Day Sound •

Event Safety Alliance •

Take1 Insurance •