Music News: Drive-in shows by Garth Brooks and others a bright spot amid uncertain future for live music


The Current Music News for June 18, 2020 (MPR Video)

We've talked about this quite a bit already, but let's say it again for the people in the back: independent music venues are fighting for their survival. As Pitchfork points out, even with some spaces starting to reopen, live music is nowhere near a full-fledged comeback...after all, if you open your doors to 25% capacity, you can't just give those people 25% of a show. Plus, national tours aren't going to start back up until artists can be confident of doors being open all across the country, including in dense urban areas that have been hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

As if venues didn't have enough to worry about now, the legal expenses could pile up. In California, a group of venues are suing their insurance company over not paying out on claims related to coronavirus shutdowns. Then in Ohio, two music festivals are suing state officials on the basis that for a state to shut down a music festival, even for public health reasons, infringes their first amendment rights. And every venue is nervous about potential liability risks if they reopen and then a concertgoer gets sick.

Live Nation is also nervous — nervous about who's going to take the hit if concerts now rescheduled for 2021 have to get canceled again. In a letter to talent agencies, the giant promoter says it's instituting new policies for next year. Here are some of the headlines: if a concert gets canceled due to COVID, the artist doesn't get paid. If a concert gets canceled due to low ticket sales — say, because people are nervous about coronavirus — the artists get paid 25%. If an artist cancels a show — say, because they're nervous about a virus outbreak — they have to pay Live Nation twice what they were supposed to make for the show. As Billboard notes, that kind of agreement is unprecedented. We're living in unprecedented times...but are artists really going to assume that kind of risk for themselves, or is Live Nation going to blink and change their new terms, or are big shows just going to be off for all of this year and next year?

Fans are getting frustrated, but when people in Manchester, England took matters into their own hands for a pair of "quarantine raves" last weekend, it did not go well. Aside from whatever virus spread might have happened when 6,000 people partied in local parks, authorities are also investigating three stabbings, one fatal drug overdose, and a sexual assault. Afterwards, it took hours for an army of volunteers to clean up all the trash and property damage. (Consequence of Sound)

So! Who's up for a drive-in concert? Fans across the country, it turns out. Bigger and bigger names are playing for fans in cars — including Alan Jackson, Los Lobos, and Keith Urban, who surprised Tennessee front-line health care workers with a drive-in show.

You can always count on Garth Brooks to go big, and that's how he's doing the drive-in concept, with 300 drive-in movie theaters across the country showing a special concert he's created for the occasion. Yesterday I talked with Walter Kinzie, whose company Encore Live is producing the experience. He explained how it's definitely not like all those theaters are just clicking play on YouTube. The show is happening next Saturday, June 27. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, June 19.

We'll send you out with an Elton-John-approved cover of his 1983 song "I'm Still Standing." These are music students at an institution with an exquisitely English name, Telford Priory School.

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