Country Music After Coronavirus: What the Future May Look Like
Aside from "When will we return to normal?" the most common question asked about a post-coronavirus world is "What will normal look like?" In country music, fans and artists just want to know when it's going to be safe to go to concerts again, but the structure of the music business is likely to change in significant ways in 2020, 2021 and beyond.
This 5 Burning Questions video with Taste of Country's Adison Haager and Billy Dukes explores what the future of country music might look like. The return to a robust concert economy is sure to be slow, even if it's not hampered by the reemergence of the coronavirus. That's because even when venues are open, a large portion of the population is going to be hesitant to return. Evidence of that is seen in how people started staying away from restaurants long before states shut down. Data pulled by online restaurant booking platform Open Table shows a 91 percent decline in bookings year over year as of March 18. That's as much as two weeks before some states officially "closed." As of May 7, with most states having opened restaurants in some form or fashion, the gap remains at 98 percent. That kind of skepticism is going to have a long tail.
"I'm nervous for people in our business. I think there's going to be a lot of people, a lot of artists, a lot of musicians, publishers, probably even labels to some degree that won't survive this."
Fewer fans equals fewer concerts, festivals etc ... and likely smaller venues. How realistic is it to expect any artist to fill a football stadium anytime soon?
Overall, artists firmly believe they will play for fans in a traditional live setting in 2020. Kenny Chesney told the Tennessean he was cautiously optimistic, and others including Craig Morgan, Trace Adkins and Lee Brice told Taste of Country they, too, were confident. More concerts, festivals and tours are sure to be canceled in 2020 (Chris Young just scrapped several dates), but we'll have a clearer picture of the future of live country music when 2021 tour plans begin to emerge.
The music has changed and will continue to change moving forward as American values are changing. The best songwriters are mirrors. Family and home are themes with greater value today than six months ago, when the world was seemingly moving too fast. A strong reemergence of faith in country music could be on the horizon, Dukes says. That next big stadium anthem might get shelved for a few years because ... what's the point?
Large music institutions may also fail in the next 12 months. The music industry could have its Lehman Brothers. "I'm nervous for people in our business," Morgan shared. "I think there's going to be a lot of people, a lot of artists, a lot of musicians, publishers, probably even labels to some degree that won't survive this."
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Evidence of that is already mounting as Saudi Arabia is rumored to have interest in Warner Music Group, after having dropped $500 million to own a stake of Live Nation. Musically, Zac Brown admitted to having to lay off his crew after he canceled his 2020 tour, and he's since put Southern Ground Studios up for sale for $10 million. It's a mistake to believe the most commercially successful artists are in the best position to ride this storm out. A prudent newcomer could be set up much better.
Join the conversation in the comments section of the above video. There's certainly a silver lining around this storm cloud as changes make room for new opportunities, something many artists realize. Scotty McCreery is seemingly making it a goal to play for every single person on Facebook. Laine Hardy did his media tour digitally. Luke Combs wrote and recorded a new single called "Six Feet Away."
Innovation is often a byproduct of desperation.
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