By Bob Galombeck and Kell Houston
Like having a child in the backseat of your car on a very long family road trip, impatiently wanting to reach your destination, the journey of COVID-19 in 2020 tested all of our patience. And across the country of this very long trip, notable casino-friendly artists such as Charley Pride, Joe Diffie, John Prine, Tommy DeVito and others have sadly ended their journeys due to this pandemic, and they will be missed. It has been a tragic, devastating and unprecedented year for our industry. And for casino properties, this road trip has been full of stops and starts, detours and uncertain travels.
Let’s review where we’ve been
Beginning very early spring, when we saw that this COVID-19 issue was a real problem and was not going away anytime soon, previously booked shows for many properties began pushing out to mid-2020, for starters, then into later 2020. Then we started moving into 2021 for those properties that did not automatically wipe out the entire 2020 calendars up-front. Some artists have had their shows rebooked as many as three to four times, trying to get a handle on this long and winding road back to normalcy. And recently we are now seeing 2022 start coming into the picture for rebooking of postponed individual shows and entire tours.
This has been very taxing on everyone, especially with routed dates; the calendars, the discussions, the replotting and rebooking, the paperwork, the artwork, the announce, the on-sale, the postponements, and then the rebooking process once again.
Can we finally get back to what we love, live music?
So, now with a vaccination finally in motion, are we getting a handle on when this trip will end, and do we know how it will look when we arrive? The timing of all this and how we approach the onset of live entertainment still has its questions, especially in a window of April to June where it can go either way. Each Tribe has their own say in this, and we certainly want everyone involved to remain safe and healthy when it comes to firing up live entertainment again.
If you have a show booked in this April to June timeframe, chances are that your calendar after that is starting to fill up, as is the artist’s. Moving shows out of this grey area to late 2021, and perhaps into 2022 if need be, gives more time to ensure safety and absorb more of the losses that you may have sustained through 2020, but should you once again prolong your live entertainment branding when we are getting within range of our destination?
If we’re not at full capacity, then what?
Rather than go through the cumbersome process of moving shows once again, perhaps there are alternatives. In one casino instance, it was recently decided that smaller price tag shows in this April to June grey area will play even if social distancing and scattered seating is still necessary, by rewarding their VIPs with a more intimate show. This will get the live entertainment branding finally active again and give their loyal guest base something to look forward to with the capacity that they have to work with. And if the much larger price tag shows in this window of time just cannot be justified, maybe reworking your deal with the artist for a smaller guarantee and some sort of backend bonus deal could be possible, rather than automatically moving the show once again. Everyone wants to get back to work, and creative options to do so versus going through the whole cumbersome process of postponing and rebooking, especially with routed shows, may be something to consider.
Streaming concerts have filled the void and there have been many quality concerts. But having a seat in a showroom for a live performance of one of your favorite artists cannot be beat. We certainly want everyone to be safe and healthy while we work towards finally reaching our journey’s destination, and if you have the opportunity to take a leap of faith during this final leg of the trip and fire up your live entertainment, it may be just what we all need. Then we can tell our child in the backseat that we are through all the roundabouts of our trip and we are almost there.
Stay safe, healthy and strong, and let’s all work to get past this once and for all.