A RETURN TO LIVE ENTERTAINMENT WITH IOPEN
In April 2020, Rolling Stone reported on the havoc COVID-19 was causing on the music industry. When the article was written, major music festivals like Coachella and SXSW were canceled, tours were indefinitely postponed, and music promoters like Live Nation had suspended future shows. The music industry came to a screeching halt for the first time. When this Rolling Stone article was published, many were still hoping that live music, along with sporting events, would be back before the end of the year. Although the return to live entertainment hasn’t happened as quickly as we initially thought it would, there is now hope that we can once again enjoy live music and sports thanks to M2 Capital’s new app, iOpen.
The music industry was hit hard by the pandemic. Social distancing orders had initially caused a drop in music streaming, with Spotify reporting an 11% decrease in the spring. Albums sales were also down, and some musicians were on the hook for canceled shows with no income coming in. Fortunately, many have stepped up to help the industry. MusiCares, Recording Academy’s charitable organization, launched a COVID-19 Relief Fund in March 2020 and is still actively raising funds. The organization is providing aid to those in the music industry who have been devastated by the pandemic. Harvey Mason Jr, CEO of Recording Academy, told Rolling Stone, “I’m concerned for fans of music because there’s not the ability for our creators to be able to continue to put out the volume of music that they normally do.”
Live music fans are suffering in their own way. Although the majority of ticketholders were refunded for canceled shows, it’s taken a toll on mental health as well. Concerts were one of many life’s pleasures that were taken away as a result of COVID-19. Those who love live music, as well as musicians, continue to wonder what live music will look like in the future – will it go back to how it was in 2019? Or will the way we attend concerts be changed forever?
The question was posed to Canadians back in August. Music Canada, along with Abacus Data, conducted public opinion research to determine how the music industry would continue to be affected. The research found that most Canadians are eager to get back to attending concerts when it’s safe to do so, with 88% saying they really miss going to concerts and 89% saying that virtual concerts don’t replace the feeling of live music. Although eager to get back, many Canadians do have some hesitations, as 55% said they would wait at least 6 months after physical restrictions end before they attend a concert at a live venue. Those surveyed were asked if additional safety measures like mandatory masks, reduced attendance, staggered entry times, and hand sanitation stations would make them more comfortable heading indoors for a concert.
The results showed that these safety measures would do little to improve public opinion. The survey failed to ask if they would feel more comfortable if concert attendees were pre-screened and had to be tested or vaccinated before attending. Likely, this question was not posed because the technology to do so did not exist at the time of the survey. However, thanks to iOpen – this is a genuine possibility and will open up live music sooner than you may think!
AN APP THAT VERIFIES COVID-19 STATUS
M2 Capital released their plans for the future of live entertainment including concerts and sports events, and it involves an app called iOpen. This app will verify ticketholders that have either been vaccinated within 12 months of the concert date or recently received a negative COVID-19 test within 72 and 24 hours of the show.
M2 Capital’s team of data engineers is working with UCLA and the University of Miami to finalize the HIPAA authentication/verification process currently. This verification will be linked to a QR Code and provide a great deal of flexibility which will help allow fans to return to live entertainment.
For testing, the person would visit one of the partnering 12,234 test locations. After a ticketholder had been tested for COVID-19 the testing location will upload the HIPAA Record directly to iOpen. The record would then be authenticated and accessible by the user. They will see a true negative or true positive result. To enter an event, the iOpen user would present a QR code along with their ID.
It is not yet clear how vaccinations will be confirmed. Many companies are feverishly working to create the necessary technology to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while getting life back to normal. The development of third-party health passes could alter the way this works. The FDA has not yet approved third-party companies to deliver vaccination results, but many believe it is only a matter of time. It has been suggested that we can expect to have proof of vaccination or test results for entry into large public venues like theme parks, airline travel, entering other countries, and possible employee verification in the near future.
As of right now, it does not appear that iOpen has intentions of testing on-site. They will also not store or have access to ticketholders’ medical records. Additionally, based on regional requirements, there may be some differences in requirements and timelines. It’s important to note, they cannot enforce any requirements for vaccination. Requirements to attend the event will be set by the event organizer in accordance with regional requirements. In addition to iOpen’s advanced screening app, fans can expect to see additional COVID safety measures in place when they return to stadiums and concert venues.
iOpen has been endorsed by UCLA and Howard University. Additionally, it is rumored to have support from important elected officials on capital hill. Furthermore, there are ongoing discussions with many sports associations as well. Currently, the app is being considered for use during spring training in MLB and for March Madness with the NCAA. Five active major promotors have already signed up to participate; Troy Wyatt with Seattletalentbuying.com, Daniel J Zelisko with Zelisko Presents in Pheonix, Frank Mastalerz with FM Entertainment in Chicago, T-Roy with Surge Events in Los Angeles, and Doug Kauffman with Nobody in Particular Presents from Denver.
iOpen has already reached out to additional entertainment industry veterans as well. Graham Williams of Margin Walker Presents, Austin Texas, has connected iOpen with NIVA #SaveourStages as part of the broader strategy. M2 and iOpen have now also re-targeted their support to these additional independent venues. The plan is to provide iOpen to their guests for free in order to help them with reopening and to get the planning return of the 3,035 venues which will generate roughly $30.2M (prelim est) in revenue returned to the industry. In addition, iOpen has connected with Reggie Watts and has asked for him to be the Ambassador for LA, Denver, Phoenix, Austin, Nashville, Chicago, NYC, DC, and Miami events.
The next steps for iOpen will include a venue rollout in event spaces like Red Rocks, The Gorge, and Hollywood Bowl. When allowed, venues like these will be able to host events at an acceptable capacity, with delegated COVID testing requirements and HIPAA waiver compliances. Although permissible dates and details are still being finalized, it is on the horizon. Following this, they have a collaborative plan with a projected 21,487 venues targeted for re-opening entertainment.
Some of these venues are listed in the searchable data table below:
|STAPLES CENTER||LOS ANGELES||CA|
|THE COLOSSEUM AT CAESARS PALACE||LAS VEGAS||NV|
|RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE||MORRISON||CO|
|VERIZON THEATRE AT GRAND PRAIRIE||GRAND PRAIRIE||TX|
|SPRINT CENTER||KANSAS CITY||MO|
|EMPIRE POLO CLUB||INDIO||CA|
|MICROSOFT THEATER||LOS ANGELES||CA|
|TERMINAL 5||NEW YORK||NY|
|PLAYSTATION THEATER||NEW YORK||NY|
|PECHANGA ARENA||SAN DIEGO||CA|
|THE NOVO||LOS ANGELES||CA|
EXPERIMENTS TEST SPREAD OF COVID-19 AT LARGE VENUES
Several countries have experimented with testing prior to large venue events. On December 12, 2020, a concert was held in Barcelona, Spain, with 463 attendees and 4 performances. This was not just any concert; it was a five-hour concert experiment. The study believed that with the right conditions, there would be no increase in risk for COVID-19 transmission. The 1047 study participants were between the ages of 18 and 59 and had not been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days. On the same day of the concert, all participants were tested, and half were assigned to an active group and the other half to a control group. This resulted in 463 individuals attending the concert. Eight days following the concert, attendees were tested again. The results showed that none of the participants were infected with COVID, while two of the control group (those who did not attend) were infected. The following safety measures were also put in place:
- Limited outdoor smoking area, with a restricted number of people allowed at a time.
- Alcoholic beverages were served in another room, and participants were only allowed to take their masks off to drink.
- An N95 was given to every participant as they entered, and they were required to wear the mask for the duration of the concert.
- Although physical distancing was not enforced, the venue was at half capacity.
- Singing and dancing were allowed.
The results were very promising. Participants said they enjoyed the performance in a post-event questionnaire. The researchers concluded, “Attending a live music concert staged with a series of security measures that included a negative antigen test for SARS-CoV-2 done on the same day, was not associated with an increase in COVID-19 infections. Hopefully, this data will pave the way to save live concerts during the COVID pandemic”.
A similar experiment was also conducted in Germany. The study, called ‘Restart-19’, had roughly 1500 volunteers attend a concert simulation with various safety protocols in place. Each of the participants was required to test negative within 48 hours of attending the event and wear a mask the entire time. The study, organized by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, aimed to study crowd behavior and understand how COVID-19 could spread at a large social gathering. There were three scenarios acted out during this concert simulation.
In the first scenario, the event was run the way concerts were held before the pandemic with no social distancing. In the second scenario, there were multiple entry points to reduce crowding and more space between participants. There was a smaller group of attendees in the third scenario, and all participants were required to stand 5 feet apart. Each participant had an electronic contact tracing device recording their movements as they walked around the stadium. Researchers also mixed hand sanitizer with fluorescent marking spray, which tracked surfaces people touched the most. Lastly, a smoke machine was used to help visualize the aerosols that spread the virus. Tim Bendzko, a German pop singer, performed, and although he was nervous it would feel “fake,” the crowd was really engaged.
What followed after the concert was arguably the most interesting part. Using the data collected from the concert, a computer simulation was created. In this new virtual concert scenario, 24 infected participants were included. With these infected individuals added to each of the three scenarios, any analysis looked at the aeration system and the number of close contacts.
After analyzing the data, researchers suggested holding live events in arenas but made recommendations to avoid the spread. The first recommendation was to reduce the number of attendees. The second recommendation was to have seated concerts vs. standing concerts as this is easier to maintain distancing. Additionally, participants should wear a mask, and they should only be allowed to eat and drink at their assigned seats. Researchers felt that individuals working at the venue should be put in place to enforce rules. Lastly, an adequate ventilation system must be put in place.
Although these recommendations would make the concert-going experience vastly different, it is promising. It is important to note that this experiment was conducted in August when the world was still waiting on a vaccination. With multiple vaccinations now being administered, and increasingly effective testing in place, there is likely more opportunity to create a concert-going experience that more closely resembles the one we once knew.
COUNTRIES RETURN TO LIVE MUSIC WITH GREAT SUCCESS
Live music is back in full force in New Zealand. Just this week, around 20,000 people attended a packed concert – without a mask in sight! This was thanks to the nation’s second consecutive month without a single COVID-19 transmission. Wuhan, China, once the epicenter of the virus, has had several large events recently. In August, after three months of no new cases, a large concert at a water park attracted thousands of fans. Pictures quickly circled the internet, with images of attendees standing shoulder to shoulder with no masks. Taiwan and Australia are also back to hosting concerts, and thanks to iOpen, the US is likely not far behind.
M2 Capital’s new app, iOpen, is the light at the end of the tunnel for fans of live entertainment. Each day, more people are receiving the vaccine, and hopefully soon, iOpen can begin the venue rollout. Many are eager to return to live music and sports events and are looking forward to the day venues can reopen safely.