Going Viral: The Music Industry Grapples With The Worldwide Coronavirus Outbreak

Fans crowd-surf at SXSW 2016

Photo: Roger Kisby/Getty Images


Going Viral: The Music Industry Grapples With The Worldwide Coronavirus Outbreak

With the unprecedented cancellations of SXSW and Ultra Music Festival this week, the music industry faces ongoing questions, fears and concerns surrounding the global spread of the novel coronavirus

GRAMMYs/Mar 9, 2020 - 05:52 am

Like the spread of the virus itself, the growing fear surrounding the coronavirus outbreak has quickly escalated on a global scale over the past three months. Its impact on international industries and business is far and wide: Airlines, pharmaceutical conglomerates, big tech companies, gaming businesses and tourism industries are currently experiencing or bracing for the economical effects resulting from the novel coronavirus. It was only a matter of time until the furor reached the music industry. 

This week, the coronavirus sparked several major blows to the international live music industry. On the same day, Friday, March 6, both Ultra Music Festival (UMF), the Miami-based EDM mega-festival, and SXSW, the annual multi-day music, film, interactive media and tech festival and conference in Austin, Texas, canceled their 2020 editions due to concerns over the coronavirus. (Miami's Calle Ocho Festival, a one-day street festival and cultural event part of Carnaval Miami, was also canceled as part of the UMF announcement.)

In the same week that UMF and SXSW were canceled, Tomorrowland Winter in France, an offshoot event of Belgium's globally attended annual Tomorrowland EDM festival, and Ultra Abu Dhabi, UMF's event in the Middle East, were both called off. 

The UMF and SXSW developments come on the heels of bubbling fears and recent cancellations and postponements of international music tours and prominent cultural events around the world since this January due to the coronavirus, including cancellations from major artists like BTS, Mariah Carey, Green Day, Stormzy, Khalid, The National and many others. 

The news marks the first-ever cancellations for both SXSW and UMF, which were each scheduled to take place this month. It's an unprecedented development triggered by an equally unheard-of event with potentially unknown ramifications on an industry-wide level. 

The SXSW cancellation alone has already impacted Austin's local food, live music and hotel industries, with its ripple effect causing similar consequences on the city's businesses, communities and grassroots music scene. While local businesses and governments and city leaders are banding together to help alleviate the aftermath, launching funds, initiatives and fundraisers, the music industry is now scrambling for real-time responses and preemptive solutions as it heads into the 2020 festival season. 

Currently, there is lots of talk in the music industry surrounding event cancellation insurance as the coronavirus outbreak continues to impact large-scale events around the world. Generally speaking, infectious diseases are not covered in cancellation insurance policies, but rather come at an extra added premium. Still, many such insurance polices may exempt the novel coronavirus, according to Billboard. For example, while SXSW had insurance policies covering several types of events and scenarios, the festival did not have "cancellation insurance relating to a disease outbreak or triggered by the city declaring a 'local state of disaster,'" according to a report from The Austin Chronicle.

Consequently, many are putting the onus of event safety during the coronavirus era in the hands of event promoters and festival producers. "Concert promoters might need to come up with some kind of new model for this period," Carnegie Mellon University professor George Loewenstein told Billboard. "It feels to me like we're at the beginning." University of Massachusetts-Lowell bioethicist Nicholas Evans adds, "If there's a Los Angeles Times story that says 'Coachella becomes a hotbed for coronavirus,' I don't think it's going to be the company that serves drinks at the bar that's going to be taking the hit for that one. It's going to be the festival organizer." 

The effects of the coronavirus on the music industry go beyond the live music sphere, with many music and entertainment companies taking stock market hits as early as February. Warner Music Group, which last month (Feb. 6) announced it was going public, delayed its initial public offering (IPO) "due to market turbulence caused by fears surrounding the spread of the coronavirus," according to Music Business Worldwide. Frankfurt Musikmesse, a major gear show and trade fair in Europe, postponed its 2020 edition, originally scheduled for April, due to coronavirus.

In the fallout of the SXSW and UMF cancellations, novel practices are starting to emerge across the live music and event industries. Many tech conferences and industry trade shows are taking their events and exhibitions virtual and online-only. In the music space, large-scale events are implementing advanced medical technologies and additional health measures such as “fever screening," a process by which festival and event attendees are screened for "exposure risks" via thermal-imaging cameras, as reported by Rolling Stone.

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Still, with the 2020 festival season on the horizon, questions, fears and concerns surrounding the global coronavirus outbreak continue to loom in the music industry. Days after the SXSW news, forecasts of future festival cancellations remain a hot topic. "I wouldn’t doubt over the next 20 days if we see a festival a day canceled,” Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman told Billboard in an interview prior to the SXSW and UMF cancellations. 

At the time of this writing, both Coachella and Stagecoach, the flagship festivals from music events and festival producer Goldenvoice, have not been canceled. Meanwhile, Riverside County, where both fêtes take place, today (March 8) declared a public health emergency after it confirmed its first coronavirus case.

As the coronavirus continues to spread, many are left wondering if those festivals, along with several major events around the world, will see their fates cut short during this festival season.

For more information and developments related to the coronavirus, visit the World Health Organization for ongoing news and updates.

Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More



Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

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Jay-Z And Meek Mill's REFORM Donates Surgical Masks To Vulnerable Prison Population

Meek Mill

Photo: Brian Stukes/Getty Images


Jay-Z And Meek Mill's REFORM Donates Surgical Masks To Vulnerable Prison Population

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says correctional facilities are particularly vulnerable places for COVID-19 to spread

GRAMMYs/Apr 7, 2020 - 05:01 am

Jay-Z and Meek Mill's criminal justice reform organization REFORM has donated roughly 100,000 surgical masks to correctional facilities including in the states of New York, Tennessee and Mississippi.

The organization said it donated 50,000 masks to New York City's Rikers Island Correctional Facility, 40,000 masks to the Tennessee Department of Correction and 5,000 to Mississippi State Penitentiary. Spin reports that an additional 2,500 masks were sent to a Rikers medical facility. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says correctional facilities are particularly vulnerable places for COVID-19 to spread.  

"Incarcerated/detained persons live, work, eat, study, and recreate within congregate environments, heightening the potential for COVID-19 to spread once introduced," according to the CDC. Other vulnerabilities include the fact that incarcerated people, for the most part, can't leave and, depending on the size of the facility, space for someone to medically isolate could be limited.

"We need to protect vulnerable people behind bars & GET THEM OUT!" REFORM said in a tweet. The organization sees this as a threat to public health and said on its website that it is working with experts and advocates "to develop a set of common-sense recommendations that would make us all SAFER."

They also announced on Twitter that they helped the South Carolina Department of Corrections locate 36,000 masks for their population. 

Across the nation, COVID-19 cases have been popping up in correctional facilities, including North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee

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Tame Impala Announce U.S. Tour Dates

Tame Impala

Photo: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/Getty Images


Tame Impala Announce U.S. Tour Dates

In addition to headlining Coachella 2019, the Australian psych-rock outfit has revealed several more show dates stateside

GRAMMYs/Jan 30, 2019 - 06:55 am

Tame Impala, the GRAMMY-nominated psych-rock project of Australian Kevin Parker, has announced four new spring U.S. tour dates, following the group's headlining sets at Coachella in April.

The 2019 U.S. dates begin in Indio, Calif. at Coachella on April 13 and 20, followed by dates in Nashville, Tenn., Asheville, N.C., St. Augustine, Fla. and Miami in May. While Parker is a one-man show in the studio, he has a touring group to translate the music live. 

Last week, the group was also announced as a headliner at the Corona Capital festival in Guadalajara, Mex. on May 11. Other May dates Tame Impala is set to play include Shaky Knees in Atlanta, Boston Calling in Boston, and Primavera Sound in Barcelona, Spain.

Parker has revealed that a new album is on the way and will be released sometime before the end of 2019. Tame Impala's last album, 2015's Currents, was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the 58th GRAMMY Awards

Tickets for the new show dates go on sale on Feb. 1 at 10 A.M. local time via Ticketmaster.

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Coachella: How many years have GRAMMY winners headlined?
Lady Gaga is among the headliners at the 2017 Coachella festival

Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images


Coachella: How many years have GRAMMY winners headlined?

Find out how GRAMMY winners have dominated the lineup throughout the iconic Southern California festival's history

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

GRAMMY winners Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar and Radiohead are set to headline the 2017 Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival in Southern California over the next two weekends.

Did you know that a GRAMMY winner has been among the headliners at Coachella for all but two years in the festival's 18-year history? The lone exceptions are 2001 when GRAMMY nominees Jane's Addiction headlined and 2002 when GRAMMY nominees Björk and Oasis headlined.

Here's a list of GRAMMY-winning Coachella headliners by year:

1999: Beck, Tool
2003: Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers
2004: Radiohead
2005: Coldplay, Nine Inch Nails
2006: Tool
2007: Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers
2008: Prince
2009: Paul McCartney
2010: Jay Z, Muse, Gorillaz
2011: Arcade Fire, Kings Of Leon, Kanye West
2012: The Black Keys, Dr. Dre, Radiohead
2013: Phoenix, Red Hot Chili Peppers
2014: Arcade Fire, OutKast, Muse
2015: AC/DC, Drake, Jack White
2016: Calvin Harris
2017: Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead

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