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Looking Ahead to the Live Music Scene in 2021 and How We Can Help

Drive-In Show at McHenry Outdoor Theater

Like many across the country, I miss live music more thanmost things I have had to do without during the Covid-19 pandemic. The experienceof seeing an artist perform live on stage to an expecting audience is one ofthe great thrills in life that never gets old.

As the music industry looks ahead to 2021 and the hopefulreturn of touring and large events, we at Advantage Trailer want to help bepart of the solution.

According to a Dec.15 article in Pollstar, “Live Nation president Joe Berchtold recently told CNBChe expects ‘major outdoor shows' to return to the U.S. by summer and AEG PresidentsChairman and CEO Jay Marciano was recently quoted in Rolling Stone saying he expectsa reopening by fall.”

I hope they are right because everyone in the industry –from the artists themselves to their tour staff to agents, promoters, andvenues – has been decimated by the shutdown of live events over the past ninemonths.

While streaming shows have played a small part in keeping artists going and connected to their fans, and helping to support out-of-work crews or local venues, they have their limits. Over the first few months of thepandemic, I was gobbling up every live stream I could from artists I liked, butwhen combined with all the other virtual commitments – Zoom meetings, virtualtrade shows and conferences, online church, virtual family get-togethers – I quicklyfound myself suffering from virtual fatigue. Now, more than ever, I try to unplugfrom the ever increasing online noise during my free time.

And I know I’m not alone. People can’t wait to get back outto live events.

The week before the pandemic officially hit, I traveled to PuntaCana, Dominican Republic for Avetts at the Beach, a 5-day, 4-nightall-inclusive concert vacation featuring The Avett Brothers, Trampled byTurtles, Dawes, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, Mandolin Orange, TheWood Brothers, Emmylou Harris, and more. Little did we know how much would changebarely a week later.

After several months without live music, I was ecstatic tofind out a local cover band was performing in the parking lot outside a local pizza joint. Evenwith masks and social distancing, it was so good for the soul to see live music again, even in its most basic form.

Then, in September, a model for how to move forward – at leastin the short term – was presented. Chicago-based production agency Collectiv Presentsput on a series of live shows at drive-in theaters. I went to the Trampled by Turtlesshow at the McHenry Outdoor Theater and it was a great experience. It was certainlydifferent – attendees had to stay in the small area surrounding their cars, couldn’tcongregate with others outside their group, had to wear masks at all timesunless eating or drinking, and had to order merch online and receive a textnotification when it was ready to pick up – but it felt great to be at a live eventonce again. If there are others, I would absolutely go to them.

“The appetite is absolutely there on the fan side, and themore that happen successfully and, the more comfortable people are that they’regoing to be safe at an event we’re doing, they’ll be more willing to take thatcustomer journey with us – but they are expensive tickets compared to a regularfour-wall situation,” said Collectiv partner Michael Berg.

Innovation Arts & Entertainment CEO Adam Epstein is also fully on board with outdoor “drive-in” type shows. Per Pollstar, his agency has beenopening outdoor theaters such as the Yarmouth Drive-In in Cape Cod, whichhosted shows by Goose, Marcus King Trio, Allman Betts, Mt. Joy, and DiscoBiscuits.

“We are definitely not done, we got the site in Columbia(S.C.) that will be opening the first week in November, and we got two inTexas,” Epstein said. “We are actively investing and finding opportunitiesbecause we do believe this will be with us through next summer. We can’t sit onthe sidelines.

“…We’ve committed to make sure it is the best of what is outthere right now,” he continued. “And we’re always improving on it. We want peopleto feel like they got a little bit back of that thing they lost.”

So where does Advantage Trailer come in? Well, we can help in a few ways.

First, we can offer smaller artists a safe way to tour. It’scertainly outside-the-box thinking, but that’s what is needed during thesetimes. It also won’t work for larger, more established artists, but according to Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, emerging artists are going to be hit the hardest when touring does resume.

“The next crisis is going to be that every band in the world will be touring at once, and there will not be the resources or the venue space to accommodate that. And, even more important, that means we’re going to lose the developmental periods of some great young bands and artists that are just getting started. There are going to be young artists waiting for their moment to be in front of an audience, and to get that affirmation that feeds the fire to keep going, and that opportunity may not exist. That period is so important in putting you on a trajectory, so I predict that it’s going to negatively affect a lot of young and upcoming artists.”

New Holland Stage Trailer

This could be a short-term solution.

An artist could pull a stage trailer behind their truck orvan, complete with all their gear, and arrange a set of shows at outdoorspaces. It wouldn’t need to be a big drive-in theater; it could be a public park,because they would have their own stage with them. The stage trailer allowsthem to still utilize lighting, sound, and backdrops, while performing on astage, and when the show is over, they can strap everything down, close it up,and head to the next destination.

It would require a grassroots, by-your-bootstraps effort, but it would ease the demand for small venue space and give smaller and emerging artists a playing field on the road.

Another way we can help is by offering concession trailersto drive-in venues for food or merch. Most drive-in venues likely aren’t set upto host modern drive-in shows without outside assets being brought in, and wecan provide some of those assets.

A concession trailer can be placed at various points aroundthe perimeter of the venue, offering attendees the ability to purchase food ormerchandise without congregating at one central location.

Similarly, we can provide bathroom trailers – which arecleaner and nicer than port-a-potties – for attendees to use, as well as studio trailers for the artists to lounge in before and after their performance.

Finally, we can offer venues thermal testing trailers toensure the health and safety of everyone involved. As fans enter the venue, theyfilter through the trailer to have their temperature taken with a free-standinginstant-read thermal monitor.

If you work for a production agency, venue, or artist management that is looking for solutions to get live events back up and running, please don’thesitate to reach out to us. You can contact me at 630-524-2029 or

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