Live Nation has furloughed off 20% of its staff due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to Hypebot, the furloughs are a portion of Live Nation's $600 million plan to cut costs and keep themselves afloat.
The furloughs previously affected Ticketmaster, but have now hit all divisions of Live Nation. All Live Nation employees furloughed at this time will get to keep their health benefits, but (as is with any furlough) will not be paid.
In April, Live Nation had already announced furloughs, elimination of "discretionary spending," hiring freezes and reduction in contractor uses, among other cuts.
Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino recently outlined the company's reopening strategy during an earnings call with investors. They hope to being reopening later this year. Rapino claims that based on internal surveys, most fans are ready to get back to shows.
“In a survey we just posted, we talked to 10,000 casual and ongoing ticketbuyers and the data is pretty compelling: 90% of fans are saying ‘I can’t wait to get back to the show,’ and I think our refund rate says everything — we’re running somewhere between a 5-10 refund rate right now on a global basis, that’s much lower in Europe [which is farther ahead in the recovery process], and that’s not out of line for when we reschedule a traditional tour [under normal circumstances]. Now we’re just going to [watch] the science and see when we can back out there on a safe manner."
Rapino was asked about lowered guarantees for artists, and it's clear that it will be the norm for the immediate future.
“It’s been a unique time but we’re all in this together,” he replied, “and I would say artists, agents and managers have been incredibly supportive.
“The reality is,” he continued, “in ‘20 and ’21, the promoter can’t take all the risk on the business, as we historically have. We need to share some of that, especially refunds on the guarantees. So while we don’t want to get into the what and how of the deals, we absolutely are getting great latitude from the artists and agents to look at the traditional business of high guarantees and all of our risk, and to help share that risk, going into ‘20 and ’21, to get the shows back on the road and help us absorb it, and not take all of the [financial burden] of refunds, sales, sponsorship, food, beverages and unknowns for the next 6-12 months. They’re helping to share some of that risk to help us get back and scale fast, and not worry about losing money on the show.”
Rapino also discussed their strategy for reopening:
“So over the next six months, we’ll be starting slow and small, focusing on the basics and testing regionally. But whether it’s in Arkansas” — which he may have mentioned because a socially distanced concert is scheduled there for May 15 — “or [another] state that is safe, secure and politically fine to proceed in, we’re going to dabble in fan-less concerts with broadcasts and reduced-capacity shows, because we can make the math work,” he continued.
“There are a lot of great artists that can sell out an arena, but they’ll do higher-end theaters or clubs. So you’re gonna see us [gradually reopening] in different countries, whether it’s Finland, Asia, Hong Kong — certain markets are farther ahead [in the recovery process]. Over the summer there will be testing happening, whether it’s fan-less concerts, which offer great broadcast opportunities and are really important for our sponsorship business; drive-in concerts, which we’re going to test and roll out and we’re having some success with; or reduced-capacity festival concerts, which could be outdoors in a theater on a large stadium floor, where there’s enough room to be safe.
“We think in the Fall, if there are no second hotspots, you’ll see markets around the world [reopening] — Europe, specifically, has talked about opening up 5,000-plus [gatherings] in September. And on the venue side, we’re dealing with federal, the White House, every government body you can imagine, and we’ve got a great task force around what we have to do with the venue to make you safe.
“So I think in the Fall you’ll see more experimenting and more shows happening in a theater setting, into some arenas. And then our goal is really to be on sale in the third and fourth quarters for 2021 at full scale.”
Live Nation recently announced a change in refund policy for postponed shows. If a show is postponed, fans will get a notification that they have 30 days from the announcement of the postponement to claim a refund, otherwise their ticket will be transferred to the new date.