AEG back on its feet with live events


AEG president and CEO on welcoming fans back Image: Karl-Uwe Heinrich & Tagesspiegel

Though the virulent COVID-19 virus has claimed 0.6 million people in the United States, nevertheless, with the rolling of the vaccination program, the country is slowly coming back to normalcy.

Many stadiums and arenas in the US are opening up their doors for the return of live concerts and events due to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. In California, fans of the National Basketball Association (NBA) team – the Los Angeles Lakers – recently got a chance to pack the 20,000-capacity Staples Center – owned by AEG – for the first time since the pandemic. The Staples Center serves as the residence of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Los Angeles (US)-based AEG Worldwide, one of the world’s largest entertainment companies, is preparing more venues to accommodate concert-goers and spectators in the Los Angeles (US) area.

Dan Beckerman, President-cum-CEO, AEG, in an interview with ‘cheddar news’, enthused that the reopening means a lot for the live entertainment industry – “We couldn’t be more excited to finally be welcoming fans back to our arenas and our stadiums and our clubs and theaters all over the world. It’s been over a year since the live entertainment business got shut down and we have said throughout that we were one of the first to be shut down and one of the last to come back. There is so much genuine optimism about the return of live events and we are seeing that come back right now. The Lakers last week welcomed fans with spectators, we had the National Hockey League (NHL) team Los Angeles Kings game with fans and our fans they want to come back so much. Eighty percent of our sports and music fans held on to their tickets when they could have gone for refunds. And they very much want to come back and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome them back.”

Fans holding on to their tickets for over a year means these very onlookers have a lot of faith that the AEG would be able to provide them proper safety and security in a COVID-19-struck planet once they are inside stadia.

Beckerman further told ‘cheddar news’, “Well, for the last year, we have been working so closely with our State and county health officials because we want to create a safe environment and we want our fans to feel that trust and confidence. We want to open our venues but we want people to feel safe when they come back to our venues. So, you will see a whole host of different season modifications that we have made – we have social distancing, we have mask wearing, we have thought about things like air purification, we have sanitization throughout the building, we have really created very much a different experience – a touchless experience, a cashless experience, we have digital ticketing, paperless ticketing, so we have really been working closely with our county health officials to create that safe environment. And all this to ensure that people feel comfortable coming back to live events in large numbers.”

The top shot stated that the AEG is constantly monitoring the COVID-19 situation – “We are constantly monitoring. In our State (Los Angeles, California) we have a tier system in place that’s color coded. We started in purple, then we moved to red then orange, and now we are yellow. The California Governor, Gavin Newsom, has announced that by mid-June the expectation that our tier system will go well together and we will see very much a return to what we think of as normal life, some common sense of health modifications, of course, but the tier system which is in place to put in restrictions and remove them as our case count and positivity rate goes up and down and vaccination rates go up.”

The AEG has indeed suffered huge revenue erosion from last year down and do have plans to once again laugh all the way to the bank. Acknowledging that there has indeed been huge erosion in revenue earnings due to the pandemic-induced shutdown, Beckerman stated, “Well, I call live entertainment and sports teams and venue companies we are not immune to the effect. So, it had a significant impact on us as I mentioned earlier we were the first company to shut down – our clubs, theaters, music festivals, sports teams, entertainment districts were largely shut down. So, what we did was we had to do what our companies did – we had to put some austerity measures in place. We had furloughs but we are so happy to be welcoming back all our employees. We brought them back on April 1st and our furloughed employees are going to be coming back over the next couple of months. So, the financial impact was real for our company as it was for every other company but we couldn’t be happier to welcome people back and welcome our employees back.”

The return to normal is so promising. But, the return of live sport and concerts will impact the economy not only in California but across the country. Beckerman puts in, “It’s such an enormous business – the live entertainment business. People focus on the artistes and the athletes but what people fail to realize is that there is an entire economic ecosystem around live events. From small businesses that are located at our venues to restaurants across the street and again the thousands of employees who have been away from the venue. I saw our employees recently that I haven’t seen over a year and it was great to see them after a year. And they want to be back. And I think that’s part of the ecosystem – having our thousands of employees back to work, having our restaurants in LA live reopening and having all of the other businesses in the hospitality and leisure space that feed half of these live events to come back online.”

Thousands and thousands of people’s livelihoods depend on these concerts and live events – they feed off these centers. Where does the future of sports and entertainment stand in a post-COVID world? To this, he concluded on a promising note, “Our live music business is ramping up quickly. Music festivals coming back this summer. We had American singer-songwriter Kane Brown tour go up on sale that is going to start in the Fall and has done exceptionally well. We have our other touring artistes that are coming back online. So, what we are seeing is, we are seeing a tremendous pent-up demand from people who want to experience live events and you couple that with a pent-up supply from our music artistes that want a need to get back on the road and re-engage with their fans. So, in the end of 2021, moving into 2022, we see an incredible return of that pent-up supply and that pent-up demand come and meet together and I think their economic impact is going to be incredible in 2022 and beyond.”

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