The Tech Flex: Innovation Leading The Way To A Reopened Concert Business

Not THAT At The Drive-In
Mikkel Berg Pedersen / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP
– Not THAT At The Drive-In
Concert organizers are getting creative to make the music happen, including at this drive-in concert by Danish artist Mads Langer, performing in Aarhus, Denmark, April 24 in what may be the only type of European festival to take place this summer season.

Audentes fortuna iuvat. The Latin proverb reads “Fortune Favors The Bold,” at least depending on the translation, and the concert business is no different from others in that regard. Adaptation, innovation and implementation are the name of the game and have seen this industry weather actual storms, economic crises and human tragedy.  

It’s that ingenuity that will surely factor in overcoming the current shutdown of the live entertainment business brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We pivoted and put our focus on creating a solution that would help multiple different industries, first of all the essential ones to continue operating without being shut down by the different governmental entities, and then to start bringing the economy back,” says Crowdblink President Jeff Jessamine, whose event management platform is rolling out the “Crowdblink Protect” product that can be used by event organizers, business owners and work sites to pre-screen patrons or staff, with customizable questions and temperature checks. The product is primarily deployed via mobile phone.
With Crowdblink’s bread-and-butter being ticketing services, access control, verified identity, contactless payments and engagement at major outdoor events (and a majority stake acquired by RFID pioneer Intellitix in January) Jessamine said it quickly became apparent the company’s intelligence could be used to help multiple industries adapt to the COVID-19 shutdowns.  
Now, Crowdblink Protect is being used at the LAX construction site and being rolled out across their hundreds of sites across North America. 
“There’s not going to be a switch that turns the industry back on to just return and go back to the old ways,” he adds. “Even when these restrictions are lifted or relaxed for gatherings or the events industry, each company is going to have to implement health and safety operating procedures to mitigate the risks of spreading COVID, because it’s a known and recognized hazard.”
 Jessamine says the company is actively in discussions with “a globally dominant” concert promoter/venue operator to implement Crowdblink Protect.
Another experienced player in this field is event medical services company CrowdRx, which offers  consulting and comprehensive screening, testing and contact tracing solutions for COVID-19, and works with venues and local governments to establish policies and protocols. 
To get through the current crisis, the industry has banded together like never before, with groups like the National Independent Venue Alliance quickly organizing and with more than 1,000 member venues on board to lobby congress, while industry leaders like Bandit Lites founder Michael Strickland work around the clock with local governments and the medical community to assess the situation and do what it takes to get back to work.

Tobias Schwarz / AFP

Contactless scanning and pre-screening are already becoming a reality as the industry adapts to the coronavirus.
Some cities and states are already attempting to open back up and, while details are somewhat murky, some locales such as Branson, Mo., have un-banned even large events and gatherings. TempleLive in Fort Smith, Ark., is preparing to host a socially distanced concert next week with Bishop Gunn frontman Travis McCready playing to an 80% reduced audience of 229, with tickets sold in seating groups or “fan pods,” perhaps a blueprint for a socially distanced concert comeback. However, as local officials and government leaders are not event organizers or concert promoters, the onus will be on the industry to devise new tech and implement measures to ensure the safety of ticketholders, crew and artists, as well as the general public as the world grapples with the highly contagious virus.
“What the industry needs to do is be cautious and self-regulate,” Jessamine adds, noting that industries like construction deal with regular occupational hazards and have long-established protocol to mitigate those risks. “Event industry professionals are strategic and decisive and need to use those skills in determining the path forward. Those who ignore this and think that’s not as critical will cease to exist.”
As governments attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, tracing apps have become part of the conversation, such as in Australia where more than 3 million people have reportedly downloaded COVIDSafe. Utah has endorsed one called Healthy Together, developed by a social media startup. 
As privacy concerns ramp up, with apps able to pinpoint retail businesses or restaurants visited by users, tech giants Apple and Google have been working to create tracing apps with more anonymous tracking data and are pitching those to public health agencies for a rollout that could begin as early as this month. 
Maybe more “Matrix” than “1984” on the science-fiction scale is the new “Micrashell” hazard suit being introduced as a possible way of safely attending concerts, resembling a type of space suit akin to body armor worn by first-person shooter space rangers blasting evil aliens from your favorite video games. The Micrashell is an air-tight top suit and helmet made of cut-resistant fabric made for easy disinfecting and complete with battery systems. The product is being designed by Production Club, with the idea to pitch to venues and concert promoters as a potential offering to ticketholders.
As new standards of operating concerts and other events take shape, others are getting creative to work within the current environment, such as electronic artist and YouTube star Marc Rebillet, who is planning the first drive-in concert tour in multiple cities and states starting in June. 
While one-off drive-in concerts have taken place in Europe and surely will elsewhere, Rebillet’s hard-ticket drawing power, with help from United Talent Agency, has led to what appears to be as close to an actual in-car concert as possible. The ticket price is like a real concert, too, starting at $90 plus fees for a two-person, one-car showing.
While details aren’t fully public yet, the Rebillet concerts will remain compliant with individual state social distancing regulations, allowing fans to enjoy the show from the safety of their own vehicles, but while still providing elements of a typical concert experience, also allowing fans to purchase artist merchandise, food, and more.
There’s also new high-tech disinfectant methods, such as walk-through contraptions being used at events as patrons enter.
AsiaWorld-Expo, a convention center and concert hall in Hong Kong next to the city’s airport, is testing a walk-through disinfection device in the main entrance lobby. Branded as CleanTech, the three-in-one device combines multiple technologies to kill more than 99 percent of viruses and 100 percent of bacteria in 12 seconds, according to product information. 
The device was installed in March at the convention center, which has been operating as normal with no disruption in service, said spokesperson Tracy Lau. Patrons must pass an automated temperature check before a door opens to enter the machine, and they are sprayed with a disinfectant mist before exiting the device.
“It looks like a giant Febreze machine,” said Brandon Lucas, a principal with Carbonhouse, a developer of websites and mobile applications for venues. His clients include AsiaWorld-Expo, whose website features a video on CleanTech as part of its new preventive measures policy.
 The spray is safe, according to AsiaWorld-Expo officials. The machine is produced by BioEm Air Sanitizing Technology. The Hong Kong firm uses a purifying liquid made of mostly plant-based extracts, which was researched and tested by three local universities. AsiaWorld-Expo partnered with BioEm to showcase the unit at the convention center.  Feedback has been positive from both internal staff and customers visiting the facility and its restaurants, as reported in VenuesNow.
While some of the new strategies being announced or implemented may seem far-fetched, straight out of a sci-fi movie, or just plain obstructive, Jessamine notes that things can get a lot worse if event organizers don’t take the necessary steps to ensure a safe reopening.
“If this doesn’t get done properly, the comeback, the round two of restrictions will be devastating beyond the devastation already suffered,” Crowdblink’s Jessamine adds, noting the human life at stake as well as the business implications. “Small business is the backbone of the event industry and they have been hurt the most. Our solutions will help the event industry at large get back to business, which will bring back small businesses.”