Concert promoter AEG mandates vaccines for fans; Live Nation allows artists to decide

As live music continues its comeback amid a delta variant-fueled surge in coronavirus cases, the debate over whether vaccines should be required is getting louder.

So far, most artists and venues have fallen back on whatever local health authorities are saying at the time, resulting in an ambiguous patchwork where a concert for the same band at one venue requires proof of vaccination and another does not.

But in the past week, two major concert promoters – Live Nation Entertainment and AEG Presents – unveiled protocols to combat the surging virus.

On Thursday, AEG announced it will implement a vaccine mandate for entry into any of its clubs, theaters and festivals by Oct. 1.

Some of the venues under the company’s guidance include Webster Hall and Brooklyn Steel in New York, The Roxy and El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles and the soon-to-open The Theatre at Resorts World Las Vegas. AEG also oversees the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (which last week canceled this fall's fest) and Coachella Music & Arts Festival, among others.

Live Nation Entertainment, parent company of Ticketmaster and Live Nation Concerts, is opening the door so artists who want to require vaccination or proof of negative coronavirus tests for attendees and staff at their shows feel empowered to do so.

No artists have made announcements on vaccine requirements in response to Live Nation’s move. Among the artists with Live Nation major tours are Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, Jonas Brothers, Kiss, Pitbull, Brad Paisley, Lil Baby and J. Cole with 21 Savage.

“We believe this is a great model, and we have already implemented this successfully at many major shows including Lollapalooza,” CEO Michael Rapino said in a note to employees Friday. “We know people are eager to return to live events and we hope these measures encourage even more people to get vaccinated. That is the number one thing anyone can do to take care of those around them and we are encouraging as many shows as possible to adopt this model.”

Last weekend, more than 385,000 people attended the outdoor music festival Lollapalooza in Chicago. Organizers said 90% of attendees on the first day of the event proved they were vaccinated, 8% had negative coronavirus tests and 600 people without paperwork were turned away.

Guests are asked to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 as they arrive for the first day of Lollapalooza on July 29, 2021, in Chicago. The four-day music festival in downtown is expected to draw 110,000 fans each day.

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In an Aug. 3 earnings call, Live Nation Entertainment CFO Joe Berchtold said Lollapalooza’s entry requirements were “a great signal in terms of people’s commitment and support of being vaccinated in order to go to these shows” and showed a “shift” in the industry toward such protocols.

Live Nation saw a 677.2% revenue increase from April 1 to July 1, according to the company's second-quarter earnings report. That’s a more than 98% improvement from the first quarter and was led by ticket sales.

Live Nation and artists can make vaccines a requirement only where permitted by law, however. For example, artists performing at a government-operated venue in a state where governors and lawmakers have prohibited mandates on masks and vaccines (so-called vaccine passports) wouldn’t be able to make the call.

In the letter to employees, Rapino said the company will require all its U.S. employees be vaccinated to enter “one of our events, venues or offices - with limited exceptions as may be required by law” starting Oct. 4. He added employees get an extra paid day off for each dose.

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Contributing: Melissa Ruggieri