COVID and concerts

A blue-lit theatre full of empty seats Wikipedia Commons

What will concerts look like after the pandemic?

Pre-COVID, I was a concert lover. I still am a huge concert lover. I had actually made a resolution in late-2019 to try and attend as many concerts as I could, big or small, because I always found myself glowing for weeks after experiencing live music.

Of course, the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic shut down any hopes I had of making that resolution a reality in 2020.

In the almost full year since Canada has been locked in this pandemic, concerts have been practically non-existent. On the other hand, many artists have found creative ways to transfer their art online, with many offering Zoom readings, concerts, poetry sessions; if you name it, there’s probably an online adaptation of it.

In the midst of this change in both community and technology, I have been wondering what the future of concerts will look like – in the long-term, but also in the months ahead. Seeing images of fenced off, private concert seating areas, limited seating, and “masks required” signs, it looks like attending shows will be quite different, at least for the next little while.

I have always been a believer that the coronavirus lockdown is an opportunity for so much of our society to be altered and changed. And, watching as our country begins to grow and adapt to social distancing and isolation protocols, I can’t help but feel the same way toward concert venues.

COVID presents us a unique opportunity to make concerts, grocery stores, venues, etc. all accessible and welcoming to everyone of any background and of any physical capability. For example, online Zoom concerts or events have generated discussion about proper closed captioning and sign language services to be provided, since using an online platform can draw more attention to accessibility needs and how to meet them.

Problems such as these have been issues far before the coronavirus pandemic. It’s only since COVID-19 that much of the world realized how inaccessible so many aspects of society were.

We should have always been offering closed captions and sign language at venues and events. We should have always allowed other methods of viewing a performance (in-person or online) as not everyone has the luxury of being able to access or enter a concert or TV venue. What about individuals who are unable to leave their house? Those who are living alone and do not have proper support to leave by themselves?

Of course, concerts are a miniscule (and frankly, non-important) accommodation arising from the pandemic. The need for better prescription pick-up and drop offs, online classroom teaching, grocery delivery, and social services help (only to name a few) are of higher priority to make accessible given the pandemic as quickly as possible. However, as we move forward, I hope we’re able to put the lens of accessibility on everything. Not only on necessary services such as medication and groceries, but for entertainment as well: for concerts or art shows, or for comedy events or live TV tapings. We owe it to the world to make our spaces accessible to anyone and everyone, from all walks of life.

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