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fall 2021

Good Times, Redefined

People Are Ready to Have Fun Again—But It’s Going to Look Different
Written by: Richard Gay

The live events industry, like many others, was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. With states and cities now lifting restrictions, festivals, concerts and “cons” have announced their returns for the second half of 2021. In many cases, strong ticket sales suggest that pent-up consumer demand that many anticipated is real—our Outside Lands music festival moved from its traditional summer slot to Halloween weekend for 2021 and sold out in near-record time.

But while live is “back,” what does “a return to in-real-life” actually mean? During the pandemic, the mandate for those in the live events business was clear—find a way to survive. As live events return, the path ahead is far less defined. We need to be asking three important questions:

What now?
As consumers come back to live events, what are they looking for the events to meet? Escapism, purpose, and social good, connection to others… or all of the above?
What needs?
How will the physical production of live events need to change to meet the varied, and deeply personal consumer attitudes toward a return to live? Our agency is spending a lot of time helping clients navigate the complex return to live events: large parts of the consumer audience plan to attend events and demand mitigation action, while other segments plan to attend but prefer no mitigation. These attitudes vary within demographic segments and often change with the latest breaking news.
What next?
What comprises a “live event” moving forward? From D-Nice’s “Club Quarantine” live DJ streams on Instagram to virtual festivals to Zoom cocktail hours, consumers found new ways to experience events throughout the pandemic. This has permanently changed consumer expectations around events and experiences. Creating compelling in-person events with the right digital presence and related virtual experiences will result in greater consumer access and amplification.

While the answers to these questions and more are still evolving, a few things are clear. First, the live events industry is entering a period of reinvention unlike any in its recent past. Additionally, those who take calculated risks, lean into the new experience ecosystem and work across traditional industry lines will likely reap significant rewards for their efforts.

The new world of live events will ultimately create greater scale and new opportunities for artists, producers, and sponsors—and an even better experience for fans.

Richard Gay is Chief Operating Officer at live events agency Superfly. A graduate of Stanford University School of Business, he was previously executive vice president of BET Networks, and a partner in the global media and entertainment practice of Booz Allen Hamilton.