Kevin Lyman warns against a premature return to live music
The uncertainty regarding the coronavirus pandemic is a warning against restarting the economy prematurely. Safety issues of having masses of people gathering again are still yet to be determined. Festivals are being pushed into later in the year, but it feels guided by optimism than science. Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman said in a recent interview that if his legendary festival were still operating today, "We would probably be having some really hard discussion about taking a gap year right now."
In a new interview with Variety reporter Kristin Robinson, Lyman set the tone for the unfeasible logistics of potential festival dates. Citing everything from the dearth of available dates to the sheer advance planning to launch an event, Lyman was lucid.
Lyman tells Variety that "everyone has really had to learn how to play together a little better than they ever have had to before. We really are in a mode of survival in this business." He went on to discuss how larger festivals are scheduling too close together, forcing select bands to be at multiple events on the same weekends. "If the live business thinks it can push all the traffic to the end of the year, we’re setting ourselves up for the second big hit. First hit is right now, obviously, but we are looking at many painful days ahead if we crowd the market too much."
Lyman's been involved in various outdoor events and touring roadshows his entire career. He understands the difficulty of creating a quality event with a shortage of resources. There are things crucial to a smooth-running program that includes amenities to festival goers to artist services and infrastructure (staging, sound, lighting).
Another big truth Lyman delivered was about event insurance. Most contracts have an exclusion for contagious diseases. When local/state governments began mandatory stay-home orders, it affected the way the insurance companies compensated promoters.
"That's why you're seeing some of the cancellations coming later than you'd expect," Lyman says. "They wanted to see how their insurance would pay out. Frankly, they didn't want to give out refunds so soon. Fans are really starting to get upset. We are just a microcosm of our government. None of us were ready for this."
Ever the optimist, Lyman thinks there could be a new wave of job creation if companies looked closer at their bottom line. "Maybe people in my generation might look to hiring more young people with new skill sets to innovate their business. It's always a cycle."
You can read the whole interview here.