In the wake of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine announcement and progress in other vaccine trials, the music industry and event organizers are gearing up to safely facilitate the return of live music and entertainment events in the year ahead.  Billboard is reporting that event ticketing giant Ticketmaster is developing a plan that will rely on three components – a digital ticket app, testing and vaccines, and information provided by third party health pass companies (such as CLEAR Health Pass or IBM’s Digital Health Pass) to vet those hoping to attend live events.  Because Ticketmaster handles ticketing for a large percentage of concert venues and sporting events, the implementation of its plan and technology will likely have a significant impact on setting the standard for the live entertainment industry. 

According to Billboard, the plan envisions the following process: a ticket purchaser would need to verify that they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19 or tested negative for the coronavirus within a set period of time (such as 24 to 72 hours before the concert as determined by local health authorities and the artists / venues).  Test results would be sent by a health pass company to Ticketmaster which would then issue a credential permitting the ticketholder to attend the event.  If the ticketholder didn’t test negative or didn’t take the test, they wouldn’t get the necessary authorization needed to gain entry. Under the contemplated framework, Ticketmaster wouldn’t store the ticketholder’s test results but would only receive an indication from the health pass company as to whether the ticketholder had received the required vaccine or negative test results during the applicable window. 

Ticketmaster envisions its ticketing and credentialing process working in tandem with an event management system that could be used to manage staggered entry, social distancing and potentially to aid contact tracing.

Obviously, there are a number of considerations – technological, legal, and practical -- that must be addressed before this plan can be implemented.   Reliable vaccinations and rapid testing (and quick results) would need to be generally available.  Privacy considerations and HIPPA compliance would also need to be addressed. And of course, there’s the question of whether the public is willing to accept these protocols as a requirement to get into venues.  As a practical matter, the lure of being able to see a favorite artist or attend a special event may be all that’s needed to get fans on board.   

At this stage it still seems hard to imagine what the future of live events will look like in the year ahead.  Are artists, venues and the live event industry ready to gear up for summer performances given the lack of certainty regarding vaccines and testing? Are fans are ready to squeeze up against the barricades at summer festivals?  Will government and health authorities even authorize large scale events? While there is uncertainty surrounding those questions, the fact that key players are harnessing technology and working hard to chart a path forward is a positive sign that the live entertainment industry will ultimately be able to welcome fans back to concerts, festivals and other events in a safe manner.

Check out the Billboard article here.