This Is Not A One-Off: Making Sense Of The New Normal (Pollstar Live! Panel Recap)

This Is Not A One-Off: Making Sense of the New Normal
– This Is Not A One-Off: Making Sense of the New Normal
Moderator: Elizabeth Hawk and speakers L-R: Ken Fermaglich, Peter Katsis, Taura Traub, Donna Westmoreland and Molly Zidow

While artists (and the rest of the world) are beginning to finally make their way back onto the road, a “new normal” is taking place. From vaccine requirements to limited access to backstage, live shows look far different from how they used to.

Dr. Elizabeth Hawk, who moderated Pollstar Live!’s “This Is Not a One-Off: Making Sense of the New Normal” started off the conversation by explaining that she finds herself having to balance both science and art within her own practices as a doctor. With COVID-19 shutting down the live sector for more than a year, the creative music industry wound up having to do the same. As the world paves its way through what things may look like after shutdowns, Dr. Hawk stressed the need to be realistic, but optimistic. 

As music festivals, concerts, and other live events have managed to make their long-awaited return, the “new normal” has become apparent. But while things may not look the same as they once were, Tara Traub, SVP Global Touring at Live Nation explained that returning felt like being enveloped in a “big hug.” 

“Last year I helped our artist partners across the country to bring shows back. It’s important to note how important social connection is. The phrase ‘new normal’ implies a sense of permanence. Let’s get away from that permanence. We’re adaptable and can change on the fly.”

Donna Westmoreland, CEO of I.M.P., Inc. also saw shows opening last summer, with vaccine mandates helping audience members to return to what was sorely missed. And with the requirement of vaccines in order to attend shows, artists were able to help influence those who may not have gotten the vaccine to do so. 

“We were able to start opening outdoors in Maryland in July and D.C. full-force in September,” Westmoreland said. “We implemented a vaccine mandate and looked at it as workplace safety first and foremost. We got some flack for it, but, more than that, we got support.”

While vaccine requirements and frequent testing have become standard in the industry, artists have also had to limit the number of people allowed backstage for their own protection. 

“Obviously, when you’re out you have to be careful of no backstage,” Peter Katsis, Managing Partner U.S. Music at YM&U said. “You’re looking for other ways to either engage your VIP fan club experience or with key press and key radio promo in the industry. You need to find other ways to keep them involved. It’s something quite different, and isn’t going to change for a while.”

Ken Fermaglich, Music Agent/Partner at UTA, stressed the importance of separating fact from fiction. “Science is evolving, certain aspects are not factual yet,” he said. “It’s hard to discern what’s real and not real, what practices should and shouldn’t be. We need real medical guidance.”

One point of guidance has stressed the need to utilize more single-use objects to limit the amount of germs spread. However, Molly Zidow, VP of Operatiosn at Danny Wimmer Presents made sure to point out that single-use objects decrease sustainability efforts.

“There’s a large amount of waste,” Zidow said. “Option meals, plastic cutlery. We’ve added a lot more hand sanitizer. That should be the new normal – people washing their hands more often. We should keep those things.”