One Year Later – The University News
While everyone has suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic, few industries have been as badly affected as the entertainment industry. Last May, I sat down with Patrick Hagin, Managing Partner of The Pageant and Delmar Hall, to discuss the impact of the shutdowns on the St. Louis concert industry and in general. Now, almost a year later, the pandemic is at a completely different stage than it was in May, and Hagin’s comments have changed, as have the state of the pageant and Delmar Hall.
Fortunately, the tone of our last interview is far more optimistic than that of the first. “We have no plans to reopen Delmar Hall until sometime in the summer,” said Hagin, “but for the pageant as soon as we get into late summer.” [of 2020] We have received permission from the City of St. Louis to host some shows with greatly reduced capacity. “While national tours are still banned from mid-October 2020, the pageant hosted weekend sets by local acts. While their normal capacity is 2,000 people, there were only 326 tickets available for each of these shows, fitting pods of four and two people, each six feet apart. “This series was as successful as possible. For us it is not really a profit bank or even a breakeven project. However, many of the local artists really appreciated the opportunity to work and make some money and it also kept our name so it was successful from that point of view. “These shows will continue from April this year. “We’re going to do this for a few months, and just hope that we can slowly open up to larger crowds as things go and the restrictions relax.”
But the time from now to then is difficult to predict. “A lot depends on the vaccination rate, a lot depends on the severity of a particular outbreak, but we keep our fingers crossed and hope we can be back to normal by late summer.” Of course, he uses the term “normal” loosely. “A full house with everyone wearing masks could be normal. Who knows?”
In May, Hagin said artists had financial incentives to postpone their shows instead of canceling them. However, the pandemic has lasted much longer than expected, forcing many to reconsider. “There are a few [shows] those are still on the spine but when we were in the middle of summer [last year]Most started canceling the shows right away. At that time in the summer there were rumors about it that lasted until 2022. I think a lot of people just threw their hands up. “
For the acts that are still clinging to these show spots, many are pushing into 2022. Others will have a hard time finding a place among the myriad of acts that want to tour at the same time once these restrictions are lifted. “If you look at our calendar around September, every day has five or six stops.”
While there will certainly be a greater number of holds in a given location, the industry standards for choosing who gets which date remain the same. “You have to be fair,” Hagin said, referring to the process of maintaining hold status, where artists have their hold number based on the order in which they ask for it. “Usually the first stop is because an artist first called you about that date, but obviously it has to be appropriate. It has to be an artist that you and she deem appropriate. “Furthermore, it is a question of who has the date first. “You run into situations where you have an artist who has the third or fourth grip and may have a better draw than the artist you have the first grip, but you won’t last long in this business if you are with start cherry picking this way, you will then offend and irritate agents and management who feel they are not conforming to industry norms. “
An even bigger challenge was honoring fans who spent money on tickets to shows that were ultimately canceled. In our last conversation, Hagin said that Delmar and the pageant are offering 30 day refund windows after those shows have been postponed. Unfortunately, the venues were unable to sustain the revenue from these ticket sales. “There have been a lot of refunds and that has been a real challenge across the industry.”
Other challenges focused on how venues should screen attendees for symptoms upon entering a show. While Hagin is skeptical about whether concert goers can prove their vaccination status and predicts that temperature controls will go away shortly, he believes that mask wear and basic questions will remain in the near future. The main changes the pageant will see are in their facilities. “We will most likely install bipolar disinfectant ionization units in our HVAC lines to purify the indoor air.”
How venues can and will combat these issues, however, is about as uncertain as the pandemic itself.
“There’s still a bit of the wild west out there to find out what works and what doesn’t. While “hygiene theater” is a buzzword, you don’t want to waste money on things that actually don’t make a difference. So, you have to comb through everything to find out what you think is actually effective and what isn’t. ”
In addition, it is difficult to rely on a consistently effective routine. “We can say that masks are required except when we are actively eating or drinking.” How do you interpret “active”? And the more people drink, even if they are completely well intentioned, the more they let go of their guard. That is why the vaccines are so important. “
Once these vaccines are fully implemented, the shows themselves may not look the same artistically, either. In May, Hagin said we will likely see “fewer bells and whistles on touring” once the concerts resume. The artists are pulling out to maximize profits and keep the tickets at an attractive price. While he believes this is true, he says that it also depends on the genre, using the example of country music. “At our level, the average country show is more of a simpler standard production than the average rock show. There aren’t a lot of video screens, there aren’t a lot of exploding pyrotechnics or anything like that among the mid-level country artists. Once you hit the arenas, everything is on the table at that point. “
Surprisingly, government legislation has been one of the biggest contributions to keeping venues across the country open long enough to see these changes in the first place. “The Save Our Stages legislation was a monumental piece of legislation for our industry. The money has still not been distributed, we’re still waiting for it, but the legislation is there, the money is there and the Small Business Administration (SBA) is just trying to find the best way to deliver it. “
Two of the biggest proponents of this legislation were the Democratic Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobochar, and the Republican Senator from Texas, John Cornyn. Part of that legislation was the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG), a program that includes over $ 16 billion in grants for closed venues and is administered by the SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance. “Once those dollars flow in, a lot of venues will be saved, so I’m really optimistic.”
Hagin is grateful for the government’s hand at this time. “I think the government did a pretty good job looking after the people financially. I wouldn’t say it’s great, but it was appropriate. They have taken care of our employees with high unemployment and have increased unemployment several times so that people did not lose their homes or starve to death, but I am in no way glossing over the fact that many people have actually been injured. ”
Last May, Hagin asked the audience for “a little tolerance” and “understanding of the situation” and that we patronize our favorite restaurants, bars and venues after they open. I will need as much love as you can get. “While that feeling haunted mid-2020, I happily end this article with a more optimistic message.
“I think we all knew a lot of places wouldn’t make it, but now I think if they have come this far and are still here then I think they are in pretty good shape and there are scholarship programs that will make a big difference. It was tough, but if you made it this far, you probably will. “