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NEAR TRUTHS: MOVING IN STAGES

SIGNS OF LIVE: Part of the reason we haven’t seen more high-profile releases lately can be attributed to the devastation of the touring market. An album, for the majority of established touring artists, is a marketing tool for what is normally the cash cow of any longstanding career: touring. As the light at the end of the tunnel begins to appear brighter, we’re seeing some big acts announce 2022 tours that mix postponed dates with some new ones. Among the superstars stitching together such treks for next year are The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, Queen and Adam Lambert, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Andrea Bocelli, ZZ Top and the Ozzy Osbourne/Judas Priest extravaganza.

Still on the books for 2021, at least for now: Justin Bieber’s summer dates in the U.S. and Canada, Kenny Chesney’s touring mini-fest with Florida Georgia Line, Old Dominion and more, and September stadium dates for the Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, Poison and Joan Jett confab. How many of these shows will actually take place?

STATE OF THE NATION: It’s been all the more stunning, amid so many cancellations, after a full year without any concerts, to see Live Nation’s stock hit a record high of $88+. It was $29.50 a year ago, before the pandemic struck. Michael Rapino’s organization continues to look amazingly strong through the leanest of winters, no doubt because serious investors believe that pent-up demand will drive stratospheric revenues once the sheds, arenas and stadiums fully light up again. Rapino and team have made the necessary moves; now they’re preparing the ground for a spectacular return. LN’s forthcoming Reading and Leeds Festival offers a welcome preview of a reviving market.

BORIS CALL-OFF: The grim situation between the clown show that is Brexit, a fuck-up far more colossal for the U.K. than Trump was for America, and vaccination problems on the continent has exerted further downward pressure on a marketplace just starting to look past COVID. Some feel that PM Boris Johnson’s announcement of provisional openings for May—with promises of a wider return of indoor venues in June—is just another head fake by an embattled politician. But it has injected some hope into a sector that felt hopeless a few days prior, and if it’s real, it will at least offer some domestic relief amid the Brexit touring nightmare. As will Reading and Leeds (which is second only to the freshly canceled Glastonbury on Blighty’s music calendar), if it happens in August, as announced.

Even so, with summer festival cancellations just around the corner, European and U.S. promoters are looking to lock down headliners for 2022, just as they did for the 2021 that never happened. These big acts hate to re-commit amid such uncertainty but they have few alternatives—the headlong rush to book dates in ’22 has meant there will be little space in accustomed venues for a great many artists. Will we see bands used to playing sheds forced to book the biggest available clubs? Will this and other necessary maneuvers in a saturated market create unexpected new opportunities? One thing’s for absolute certain: When everything opens up again, nightlife is gonna be lit.

CHANGE AGENTS: Will the change at the top of ICM help it become a more meaningful player in the music sector? Most agency-world insiders think not, but stranger things have happened. The Weeknd’s decision to leave WME for CAA has also roiled the agency world, though insiders say most of the agency peeps who helped develop his career ankled WME some time ago. Meanwhile, what’s going on with the Wasserman-Paradigm deal? What’s taking so long for this one to close?

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