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Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino Says Largescale U.S. Concerts Could ‘Start in Midsummer’

Wide-angle overall of huge crowd facing the distant stage, during the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. (Photo by John Dominis/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Based on conversations with governors in key U.S. states, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino is optimistic that large-scale American concerts are closer than ever to returning. He said that “a clear outline to a 75% to 100%” capacity for outdoor U.S. events in 2021 was looking likely to be green-lit.”

Speaking on Live Nation’s Q4 2020 earnings call and as reported by Music Business Insider, Rapino said, “[We] think we’re better off waiting for a high bar capacity moment in most of the states to ramp up and talk to the artists about getting paid properly.”

Rapino added that the prospect capacity re-opening in the largest U.S. markets with over 75% capacity was “within sight.” “We are seeing… what we’ve been talking about: [fans] are excited to get back to the show as soon as we get the green lights in these markets to open up.”

On Monday, the British government set a timeline that states large music events in the U.K. could resume at 100% capacity beginning on June 21. Live Nation then put up 100,000 tickets for the Reading & Leeds festival, scheduled for Aug. 27 and 29 — all of which sold out by late in the week, according to Music Business Worldwide. The company also put up tickets for the dance-music-based Creamfields fest Aug. 26 to 29, which sold out its full capacity of 70,000 tickets in 48 hours.

“We might have certain states that might not be ready, but we have enough states and enough artists willing to play the open slots if we get to that level in the right markets,” Rapino said. “So as long as these states open up to the right capacities, we can start in midsummer and in the southern U.S. we can go all the way into November.”

The Recording Academy recently held a virtual panel of New York City live music experts that included Michael Dorf of City Winery and Kamilah Forbes, executive producer of Harlem’s Apollo Theater. Dorf offered his guesstimate: “I would say in the summer we’re going to start to see some re-opening of venues—outdoor dining of course, because of the weather. In the fall, I think we’re going to be back with some limited capacity.” He noted that open-seated rooms and flexible spaces are going to be more conducive to reopening quickly than larger, fixed-seat locations.

On Live Nation’s earnings call, Rapino concluded, “Every day we seem to have a new state or country talking about when they’ll open up, so we’re feeling more optimistic than we were a month ago. Lots of artists are calling, looking at how we start up in July, August, September. So for right now, we still believe we’ll have enough open in the U.K., Australia, Canada and the U.S. to keep what we have on the books in amphitheaters booked for now.”

Live Nation has been optimistic about concerts returning in 2021. On the contrary, last year, Lollapalooza co-founder Marc Geiger predicted that concerts wouldn’t return until 2022. We’ll see who is right soon enough.