To reduce their risk on the street, artists have started tightening the circles around them. Dead & Company, which features surviving members of the Grateful Dead, announced this week that fans will be required to get vaccinated or show negative tests for their new tour, which kicks off Monday. But the band also circulated a “touring protocol” document among their team, stating that no guests – not even family members except the band members’ spouses – are allowed in a “touring bubble” around the band.
“This is not a guest, not a pass tour. No exceptions, ”said the six-page document, which the New York Times confirmed to be authentic.
For many artists, deciding whether to proceed can involve a hard calculation of the low financial margins of a tour and the likelihood of someone around them contracting the virus. While touring is often an artist’s biggest source of income, production costs – renting equipment and trucks, hiring a crew – can be high and often swallow up much of an artist’s upfront payment from a promoter.
“With a tour with 40 dates, five concerts can represent the total profit margin of the tour,” said Sam Hunt of the Wasserman Music agency. “So if an artist had to cancel five of these shows they would break even at best, and if they miss six they would lose money. Some artists may be more willing than others to take these risks. “
For the time being, much of the business is going as planned, hoping for vaccinations and the fans to catch up. Live Nation said the U.S. concert division put tickets on sale for more shows in June than any other month in its history.
Omar Al-joulani, the company’s vice president of touring, said Live Nation still expects a robust return to touring in 2022 and that the cancellations so far have not been a cause for concern. “There will always be isolated cases of cancellations,” he said, “but I don’t see any of them on a large scale.”
Still, the company is ready to adjust the plans if necessary, added Al-joulani.
“What we’ve learned in the last year,” he said, “is to be really flexible.”