Why Limited-Capacity Concerts Just Don’t Make Sense

Partial-capacity shows are not economical for most concert halls or musicians, and politicians who pretend otherwise are failing to understand the way the live music industry operates

By Samantha Hissong

“Michael Swier, who co-founded New York’s Bowery Ballroom and also runs the nearby Mercury Lounge and L.A.’s Teregram Ballroom, says his venues don’t have any plans or hopes for partial-capacity shows. “You give us 25, 50, or 75 percent but we have to socially distance? That brings us back down to 15 percent,” he says. “Those numbers don’t really mean anything if there’s a social distancing condition to it. I don’t see us being able to open at all unless the social distancing is gone, but it doesn’t really matter at that point. I think for most independent, GA music venues, 100 percent is probably where you need to be [to profit]. And I think we’re all pretty much in the mode of hoping for this fall, but it all depends on specific markets, specific bureaucracy in each market, and how careful and cautious each market will be to reopening.”

For venue owners like [Paul Rizzo, owner of Greenwich Village’s 230-person-capacity The Bitter End] who do want to give partial-capacity shows a stab, the planning alone is exhaustive. A responsible venue will have to take temperatures, stagger the audience’s entry and exit — which restaurants don’t need to worry so much about — and make sure to ask attendees if they have recently experienced Covid-19 symptoms. Cuomo says the arenas that New York is currently focused on will require PCR testing 72 hours prior to attendance. Rizzo thinks that’s “ridiculous,” as does AEG-owned ticketing company AXS, because it means testing lines lengthening, labs getting inundated, and people not receiving their results in time — not to mention the risk of contracting the virus in the time gap.”

Source: Rolling Stone