Will Concerts Return This Summer?

With vaccines kicking into gear and herd immunity on the horizon, you’d think people could be rocking again at concerts this summer. But music promoters say it not that simple; KDKA's Andy Sheehan reports.

Video Transcript

KYM GABLE: And this is good news, obviously, for businesses that have been struggling.

STACY SMITH: But what about the music industry? Live concerts have been on hold now for more than a year, and many are wondering what the future looks like for live music. KDKA investigator Andy Sheehan is looking into the question many would like answered. Will concerts return this summer?

ANDY SHEEHAN: Well, you would think with vaccines kicking into gear and herd immunity on the horizon that people would be rocking again this summer, but promoters say it's not that simple.

RICH ENGLER: My favorite guitarist of all time is David Gilmour from Pink Floyd. And next one, Bob Dylan. The third one, the original Who.

ANDY SHEEHAN: Music promoter Rich Engler has known them all, produced their shows. But after more than 6,000 concerts and 51 years in the business, he's never seen a time like this, the year the music died.

RICH ENGLER: There's been bad years and there's been phenomenal years but never a year just wiped away, you know, and people's lives too. It's crazy.

ANDY SHEEHAN: Indeed, concert halls, arenas, and stadiums have been silent for a year now, and those looking to rock this summer will likely be disappointed. Kenny Chesney won't be coming, nor will the Stones or Springsteen.

RICH ENGLER: Everybody's on the sidelines. Yeah, I've been talking to Bruce's camp, and it's the same thing.

ANDY SHEEHAN: Engler's looking to book some shows but can't make them work with capacity limits at 20%. He doesn't want to advertise or pay the bands up front if he needs to move those dates. Even if herd immunity kicks in in June or July, that won't give promoters enough time to plan the big shows.

RICH ENGLER: At the theater and arena and stadium level, way too risky to go on sale. Everybody's praying for the fall.

KEVIN MCMAHON: There are still many variables out there.

ANDY SHEEHAN: Still, summer may not be an entire washout. Allegheny County does not yet have a lineup for the free concerts at Hartwood Acres in South Park but says it's going ahead with scheduling them. And the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust says there will be some concerts with limited attendance at the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. The trust has begun scheduling the Broadway play series beginning in September but concedes most concerts and theater events will need to wait till later.

KEVIN MCMAHON: When does that start up again? And our best assumptions right now is certainly still the fall. That's what we're planning.

ANDY SHEEHAN: Leaving a whole industry to stand down for months to come.

RICH ENGLER: The sound companies, the stagehands, the lighting companies, the roadies, I mean, just think, these people-- you know, they don't-- some of these people on the low end don't make a lot of money. They have to be really suffering.

ANDY SHEEHAN: But Engler says don't expect any discounts from the performers themselves who are used to being and living like the rock stars they are.

RICH ENGLER: They're all spoiled. They get overpaid already. They're not cutting anybody a break. Like hey, pay up or shut up or move over.

ANDY SHEEHAN: But if the vaccines do kick in and venues get the all clear, it is possible that promoters could schedule some smaller shows in a hurry. But the bigger acts will stay on the sidelines. Andy Sheehan, KDKA news.