July 12, 2021

When Will Musicians know if it's Safe to Tour Again

When Will Musicians know if it's Safe to Tour Again

It's official- artists have begun making plans to return to the road.

Alternative rock legend Dinosaur Jr. recently announced dates for a fall tour, and the San Francisco music festival Outside Lands recently announced that it will return on Halloween.

So if you're a musician, you might be wondering if it's time to book some gigs. But you also might, reasonably, have a few questions about safety. Well, we're here to help.

Tim Hygh is the Director of Tourism for Mackinac Island. He's responsible for coordinating collective efforts to market and promote the Island on behalf of the bureau’s member businesses - hotels, restaurants, attractions and more. “In 2020, that meant working with our member businesses to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and host a successful tourism season on the Island,” he says. “Mackinac Island welcomes musicians from around the country each year. In 2020, we were forced to cancel large performances and businesses took proper precautions when hosting live music indoors.”

With the pandemic hopefully about to be in the rearview mirror, Hygh says, “As we look to 2021, we are working to build on the successes of 2020 and evaluating several options to bring live performances back in a meaningful way, with the safety of audiences and performers in mind.”

Bookings for Mackinac Island have begun heating up, and Hygh expects that will be the case everywhere. “The time is now to start planning, we expect a record year due to pent-up demand and increasing confidence in the vaccine,” he says. “That said, just like anyone who is traveling, we recommend musicians plan deliberately. Look for destinations who continue to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously and are working together - local businesses, officials and health experts - to mitigate the spread of the virus.”

Hygt says that musicians need to keep in mind that “continued coordination and communication are both critical. There is no one easy 'silver bullet’ to solve the pandemic and even the vaccine is not going to flip the switch back to our pre-virus normal.” But just because we have to be careful for a while doesn’t mean you can’t start getting back out there! “Keeping current with and following national health expert guidelines and remaining vigilant will keep travelers - and musicians - safe!”

It’s also worth keeping in mind that once you are able to tour, you are going to be encountering a landscape that has changed dramatically in a year.

Nicholas Cesarz runs the drummer resource website DrummingReview.com and toured for six years with the alt-rock group Vinyl Theatre. “When we traveled in a van, we got sick often, despite trying to stay healthy where possible,” he says. “After our shows, we would stay after and meet as many fans as possible—signing merch, taking photos, chatting.”

Based on his experience, he says, “When musicians return to touring and playing shows, I highly anticipate that meet and greets will be off-limits for some time. Until we get a handle on the virus, bands will take precautionary measures, even as outdoor festivals return.”

It also seems likely to him that outdoor festivals might be the only game in town, at least at first. “More modest venues, like bars and clubs, may have a more challenging time returning to normal,” he says. “Indoor concerts may have to hold off longer than outdoor festivals. Despite small crowd sizes at clubs, the risk of COVID transmission is high. Fans love to get up close and personal with the artists they love. Venues may have to adhere to strict guidelines until a significant portion of the population is vaccinated and variant worries have faded.”

And even if live shows become possible, we're all going to have to wait a little bit longer. To keep yourself busy and sane, Cesarz suggests that artists should “focus on creating as much content as you can at home while we ride out the rest of the pandemic,” adding that “YouTube, Twitch, Spotify, and TikTok are all fantastic places to grow your audience. Build your audience further now so you can return to bigger crowds in the future.”

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