If things had gone according to plan, I’d have been in Singapore this week visiting my goddaughter on the occasion of her second birthday. It’s not that I’m all that worried about coming down with a case of COVID-19, but there’s always the chance of getting caught in some kind of extended quarantine because of one sick passenger or fellow hotel guest. The kid will have to wait for her present.
Two other trips have been either killed off or postponed: a music trip to Manchester and Liverpool England and another to Gdansk, Poland, where I was supposed to speak at a music conference. A few other music-related trips to LA, New York, and London are also in limbo, all because of the coronavirus pandemic.
There have been dozens of cancellations and postponements in the music world, not just out of an abundance of caution, but because everyone is afraid of being sued. No event wants to become another epicenter of the virus and thus open to legal action.
South by Southwest has all sorts of insurance, including clauses involving terrorism and mayhem (remember when that guy drove his car into a SXSW crowd back in 2014) and force majeure/acts of God calamities (a freakishly preseason tropical storm, tornadoes, earthquakes) but nothing to protect them from a disaster resulting from a virulent communicable disease.
A plague of locusts? No problem. An actual plague? That’s an issue. But the festival and the city of Austin would rather forego the US$350 million the even brings in than turn into a Texas Wuhan.
Same with Coachella and its sister country festival Stagecoach. Best postpone those until later in the year when things have hopefully settled down. The massive ULTRA EDM festival in Miami along with its Abu Dhabi version are off.
Pearl Jam didn’t want to take chances with the first leg of their Gigaton tour, which was supposed to start in Toronto this week. No Asian tours for Green Day and Avril Lavigne. Japan will have to do without Slipknot and Knotfest. The Zac Brown Band is staying off the road this spring. Hawaii will miss out on Mariah Carey. A massive K-pop festival set for LA isn’t happening. And Madonna’s Madame X tour is over.
No wonder, then, that Live Nation, the largest promoter in the world, saw its stock crash by more than 15% when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic on Wednesday.
And there’s still more. The annual National Association of Broadcasters convention in Vegas been canceled. So has the Winter Music Conference in Miami. The ASCAP Experience, an annual conference for composers scheduled for LA, has been called off. An industry event called The Worldwide Radio Summit is not gonna happen. And the list keeps growing.
There are, however, careful acts of defiance and optimism.
Even though the organizers of the Juno Awards wanted to press ahead, they decided that the risk was too great and pulled the plug on the 49th annual ceremony Thursday morning. Maybe they were spooked by the suspension of the NBA season and Tom Hanks’ admission.
Meanwhile, the SOCAN Awards, an annual event that honours Canada’s songwriters, are set for Toronto on Monday, March 30. A note to members sent out last week reads:
“We are monitoring credible sources of information regarding the COVID-19 situation. SOCAN continues to be in touch with municipal, provincial and federal authorities with regard to any impact it might have on our event. We fully anticipate presenting the SOCAN Awards as planned. We are being judicious and smart as we monitor information, and we will, of course, notify you if plans change.
“It is important to follow best practices to reduce the chances of spreading this or any other virus: wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, and refrain from direct contact with others.
“We will remind everyone attending the SOCAN Awards to avoid handshakes, fist-bumps and hugs, as difficult as it might be, particularly on a night when there is so much to celebrate.”
The Rock&Roll Hall of Fame’s Induction Fest, the event that comes before the big ceremony is still going ahead from April 29 to May 2. The press released I received on Wednesday didn’t have a single mention of the coronavirus or what precautions will be taken.
Then there’s Canadian Music Week, a giant music conference and festival set for Toronto May 19-23. Their statement reads:
“We are paying close attention to direction from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Toronto Public Health Department, Region of Peel Public Health and the World Health Organization. Peel Public Health has assessed the public health risk associated with Coronavirus (COVID-19) and has determined the risk is low for the region including Toronto- Pearson International Airport.
“The Sheraton Centre Hotel Toronto is open and upcoming events are taking place as planned.”
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will advise you of any updated plans.”
Everyone is watching to see what everyone else is doing.
At this point, the Foo Fighters still plan to their their 25th anniversary world tour in Phoenix on April 12. (Some wag said to me “Maybe we can rename them the ‘Flu Fighters’ until this is over.”) And Glastonbury, the most popular music festival in the world, plans to forge ahead in June. Same with the Hella Mega Tour featuring Green Day, Fall Out Boy, and Weezer, which begins in Paris June 13. (France current bans public gatherings of over 1,000 people, so good luck with that.)
As annoying, scary, and financially devastating as everything seems, this, too, shall pass. Meanwhile, let’s wash our hands, stop touching your face, and keep a safe distances from each other. And for pity’s sake, if you think you’re sick–even if it’s just a run-of-the-mill cold, don’t be a martyr and go to work. Stay home and have some soup. Things will eventually return to normal.
Meanwhile, I have a feeling that Air Canada is going to see a serious herd cull when it comes to Aeroplan members qualifying for status this year. There will be long lines for Groups 3-6.
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