First it was just a few displaced shows in Asia and Europe — then came the toppling of global music-tech conference SXSW, desert bacchanal Coachella, and tour dates for everyone from Pearl Jam to the Rolling Stones to Post Malone to Billie Eilish. North America’s largest concert promoters AEG and Live Nation suspended all their shows; major arenas and underground clubs alike were forced to their doors. By mid-March, the coronavirus pandemic had effectively put the multibillion-dollar concert industry on indefinite pause and brought cataclysmic knock-on effects into the rest of the music business as well.
As the crisis continues to spill over into the operations of record labels, venues, streaming services, booking agencies, tech startups, and other companies in the various corners of the music industry, we’re committed to in-depth reporting and analysis from every angle.
The Week the Music Stopped:
It was the beginning of March when Don Smiley started planning for the worst. As the chief executive of Milwaukee’s Summerfest — which calls itself “the world’s largest music festival,” attracting 900,000 people over 11 days each year — Smiley was confronting a tidal wave of reports about the outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. With the news darkening, he began to seriously consider dismantling the event’s entire meticulous plan. In its 52-year history, Summerfest — which was set to include performances by artists from Justin Bieber to Guns N’ Roses this year — had never been canceled or postponed.
In March, COVID-19 wiped concerts and festivals off the calendar — and that was just the beginning. Inside the unprecedented week that threw the music industry into crisis.