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Live music is undergoing a post-pandemic reawakening. Artists are eager to play, and new tours are being announced every week. But for acts who play arenas and stadiums, it may take a few years for the touring industry to catch up. NPR's Andrew Limbong has this on the arena touring traffic jam.
ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Even in a normal year, it's hard to plan an arena tour. Add in states at different stages of reopening and vaccination rates changing rapidly, and it's like a puzzle that you don't have all the pieces for.
GARY GERSH: We're doing a lot of juggling. Everybody is doing a lot of juggling, and everybody is trying to work together to get these things settled.
LIMBONG: That's Gary Gersh, the president of global touring and talent at AEG Presents, one of the biggest live entertainment presenters in the world behind talents such as Elton John, The Weeknd and Justin Bieber. Among the first large-scale AEG Presents tours coming up is country star Kane Brown, starting in June...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT IFS")
KANE BROWN AND LAUREN ALAINA: (Singing) What if I was made for you and you were made for me?
LIMBONG: ...Which is probably going to be one of the first shows Gersh sees, though he's not too picky at the moment.
GERSH: I'll go see a cover band right now.
LIMBONG: Gersh says at the beginning of the year, artists were a little more cautious about booking shows. Some acts pushed their tours as far back as 2022, 2023. Then...
GERSH: Vaccinations kind of ramped up in a big way. People became a little more bullish. And it's complicated because there's traffic everywhere.
LIMBONG: AEG rival Live Nation similarly has reported a rush of acts wanting to play. Here's Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino on a recent episode of the Vox podcast "Recode Media."
(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "RECODE MEDIA")
MICHAEL RAPINO: So you have a lot of these artists that are already looking and saying, I want to go out next fall, maybe next summer, but I know these four bands are going to go also. Looks a little crowded. We'll go out in fall, or we'll go out in summer of '23 or the fall of '23.
LIMBONG: For example, if you're a country star and you see Kane Brown's tour and you see Garth Brooks also going on tour, you might want to wait. Starr Butler is the vice president of booking and events at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, where the Bucks play. She says she started getting calls to book shows as soon as the arena opened up to 25%, 50% capacity.
STARR BUTLER: We do have some days that have four and five holds.
LIMBONG: Which is when an act says, I think I want to play there on that Friday maybe. Can you pencil me in? Butler says it'll all even out eventually as bands look further into the future.
BUTLER: I expect it probably by the next month or two to probably be all the way out to, like, 2025.
(SOUNDBITE OF MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE SONG, "WELCOME TO THE BLACK PARADE")
LIMBONG: Booking ahead has its advantages.
MATT GALLE: The arenas are - when you're working further out, they're working with you to clear other things.
LIMBONG: Like sports teams. Matt Galle is a senior agent at Paradigm Talent, where he works with acts like Janet Jackson, JoJo Siwa, Shawn Mendes and more. He also works with My Chemical Romance, who had a big reunion tour planned pre-COVID...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WELCOME TO THE BLACK PARADE")
MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE: (Singing) Sometimes I get the feeling she's watching over me...
LIMBONG: ...Which they postponed to 2021. Then in April, the band pushed the tour again 'til 2022. Galle says rescheduling was relatively easy because they made the call to postpone so early.
GALLE: If we had done it later, a lot of the real estate would be gone.
LIMBONG: It helps that this is an extremely hot-ticket item that audiences are hyped to see live. But Gary Gersh of AEG says there's other things to keep in mind.
GERSH: We're a little bit concerned about not just tour dates and not just whether people come, but - you know, road crews are going to get stretched thin. Bussing is going to get stretched thin.
LIMBONG: The live touring industry is this big, lumbering thing, and getting it up and running again after a year dormant - well, it's complicated. Andrew Limbong, NPR News.
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