Will The Show Go On?

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Rockfest Singapore II

ANYONE who had the opportunity to catch U2 in concert last December, or Scorpions and Whitesnake in the double-hitter in March should relish the memory of those large-scale events.

Or for that matter, any concert, play or performance that managed to squeak through before COVID-19 hit and the Circuit Breaker was instituted.

It will be a while before we see thousands of people gathered, standing and singing along, or part of a heaving mosh pit, joyful in each other’s faces.

U2 Joshua Tree tour
U2 Joshua Tree tour, Singapore, December 2019.

When, in some hopefully not too distant future, concerts make a return, would you be excited or concerned at the prospect of being so close to that many people?

Lauretta Alabons, managing director of LAMC, is optimistic that the pandemic will not extinguish the enthusiasm of the diehard fans.

Lauretta Alabons with comedian Trevor Noah.

“We are planning future shows and looking for new opportunities,” she says, remaining cool in light of recent events.

While everything is in a state of stasis, Lauretta is negotiating for better rates with suppliers and presumably upcoming tour promoters, and reminding all parties involved that this is a shared journey that has been dumped onto everyone on this planet.

Like many business owners, Lauretta was taken by surprise when COVID-19 came to town and swiftly blew up into a pandemic.

At that point, Singapore Rockfest II was on schedule, featuring rock groups Scorpions and Whitesnake at the Star Theatre, with free seating and standing. But that would be the last piece of action as everything came to a halt soon after with the implementation of the Circuit Breaker in Singapore, Malaysia’s Movement Control Order, and other restrictions in the region and globally.

This was trial by viral fire, and there wasn’t a contingency plan to put into effect. How do you prepare for something like this?

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Lauretta Alabons flanked by the members of German rock band Scorpions.

“Sars in 2003 was challenging but we survived,” Lauretta recalls.

“The 2009 Financial Crisis did not see a slow down for us and we had a strong year promoting Lady Gaga’s first tour along with Nine Inch Nails, The Pussycat Dolls and Keane, to name a few.

“Sars was a virus specific to Asia, but COVID-19 is a global pandemic. The live concert and touring industry was the first to be hit with many tours having to be rescheduled or cancelled.”

As everyone waits for the Circuit Breaker to be lifted, the uncertainty of the steps following it will weigh heavy on the entertainment industry. The mix of high energy, high spirits and high emotion will be difficult to keep in check.

Lauretta hopes things will normalise within 6 months, at least to a level LAMC can develop concrete plans and continue with business.

Lauretta in with the Garbage.

Eye On Business

But that is subject to many variables: How long the SARS-CoV-2 virus will make its presence felt; how the community spread is managed; whether a vaccine is developed; how desperately economies want to start up again, at the risk of trading off health for wealth.

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The gross revenue from live music tour performances exceeded US$5.5 billion in 2019, charting higher than the previous year, according to Statista. Worldwide, close to 60 million tickets were sold. And things were expected to be better in 2020, growing almost 7% annually.

Scratch that idea now. Time for a new plan. One with much lower revenue figures. But possibly higher costs.

With new measures on social distancing, travel protocols and tourism restrictions, and a general reduction in interest to travel and congregate, the concert industry could be set back for a while.

Besides, there is the added security risk of having masked menaces at concerts.

Lauretta says some of the artists are still keen to travel and perform for their fans. “Streaming is a temporary solution for bands to connect with their fans during COVID-19. But we won’t know till after the Circuit Breaker what acts we can roll out.”

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Meanwhile, as the world waits to figure out the respective next steps, Lauretta has had time to take stock of how LAMC has grown since it launched in 2002.

“The Circuit Breaker has been a great opportunity to focus on our creativity,” she muses.

“We have been able to take a step back and appreciate all the good work we have done promoting music and comedy shows.”

Let’s hope the shows get back on the road soon, bringing live entertainment to a depressed world.

If you have a point of view on COVID-19, or think someone you know could present a thought-provoking perspective on the subject, please email editor@storm-asia.com with your details and a short summary.

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