What to (Potentially) Expect from Music Festivals in the Wake of Public Health Crisis

Proper 2021 Music Festival Etiquette

For music lovers, concerts and festivals are a way of life. As of 2018, there were over 800 music festivals in the U.S. alone. But, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, it changed the face of the music industry immediately. Festivals across the globe were canceled/postponed, and most touring artists canceled their remaining shows, too. 

Now with the vaccination rollout increasing, concerts are starting to return – many with safety precautions in place as we’re still navigating through the pandemic. One of the biggest festivals to return so far this year was Chicago’s Lollapalooza. While that event was praised by some and criticized by others, it was a clear starting point for how festivals might change in the future during a public health crisis.

If you’re a frequent festival-goer, what can you expect? How will festivals change as various crises occur? While no one can know for sure, some signs are pointing in certain directions. Let’s take a look at how the landscape for future festivals might change. 

Music Festivals Pandemic Article

Greater Public Health Presence

One of the biggest changes most festivals are likely to implement is a stronger health presence. Most festivals have a medical or first-aid tent and at least a small medical unit on staff. People experience injuries and illnesses for a variety of reasons, and these tents are often suitable. But, amid a public health crisis, having a greater medical presence is necessary. 

Someone who has a Master’s Degree in emergency management can work with festival planners and staff to put safety and health measures into place for everyone’s well-being. That might include things like

  • More hygienic bathroom options
  • Handwashing/sanitizing stations
  • Stronger cleaning efforts
  • More medical staff on-site

Working with people in the medical field can also help you keep your ticket holders well-informed about the precautionary measures you’re putting in place. Already, many venues across the country are requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for people to attend. You might also consider moving an indoor concert to an outdoor venue to promote social distancing. 

During a public health crisis, it’s important to be responsible for your festival brand and your fans’ sake. Working with healthcare professionals now and in the future will make that easier to do. 

Festival Medical Staff

Live-Streamed Concerts

Live-streamed shows have become more popular throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s a good idea for just about any type of public health crisis. Technology has allowed us to create immersive live experiences from the comfort of home. While nothing beats going to a festival in person, safety is paramount in crises. 

You can still bring in revenue via video content by having ticket holders pay to view the concert live as it’s happening and to “rewatch” it for a limited time later. This is an option that’s likely to stick around since it’s a way for people all over the world to experience a festival. 

In the future, promoters can make the most of festival videos by offering some type of subscription service. The subscription business model is growing in popularity across a variety of industries. From entertainment to food, these services are so popular that 75% of Americans have at least one online subscription.

Subscription services for concerts and festivals could boost revenue and improve the virtual experience for concertgoers who are unable to attend in-person or don’t feel safe doing so. As technology continues to change and impact the industry, it only makes sense that more video and live-streamed options will be made available.  

A Shift to Sustainability

Most people don’t automatically link music festivals with environmental damage, but they’re pretty notorious for not being great for the planet. Major festivals like Coachella generate 106 tons of waste each day. For comparison, the average American produces 1 ton of waste each year. 

Because many festivals are in “off the grid” areas, most people who attend also have to travel long distances, contributing to carbon emissions. The festivals themselves often rely on energy grids for things like: 

  • Lighting
  • Special effects
  • Sound
  • Vendor power
  • Refrigeration systems

These grids often have to be imported, wasting even more energy. Simply put, music festivals haven’t been champions of sustainability, which is a public health crisis in more ways than one. Not only can people get sick because of the waste produced and the conditions of some festivals, but these practices are contributing to water and energy crises across the globe. 

Already, some festivals are starting to take a more sustainable approach, including the Flow Festival in Helsinki. The festival went zero waste back in 2009 by using green electricity and hiring a staff to hand-sort every piece of recycling. 

As more people make sustainability a priority, it’s likely that concerts and venues will make changes like implementing more recycling and relying on solar power. They might also become less geo-centric, making their locations more accessible without thousands of people having to travel long distances. 

It’s important to implement positive changes during a public health crisis, and the music industry is no different. While we don’t know for sure how festivals will change in the future, fans and concert-goers will likely be experiencing many “new normal” practices in the coming years. 


Article Written by Adrian Johansen

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