Would You Pay More To Attend A Vaccinated-Only Concert?

According to a recent survey, most people would. That's a great sign for the live events business—even if pricier shows for the inoculated never come to be.

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Last weekend, I attended a candlelit jazz performance in New York City. And although the indoor concert took place in an airy loft with patrons masked and spaced more than the requisite six feet apart, I couldn’t help but wonder what my fellow vaccinated patrons and I might do for the security of knowing the entire audience had been inoculated against Covid-19.

We won’t have to wonder much longer, at least not in the Big Apple: today, New York is set to become the first city in the U.S. to require proof of Covid-19 vaccination for indoor performances (as well as gyms, bars and indoor restaurants). But what about everybody else? I decided to put the question to a survey, and the results were noteworthy.

According to a poll of 1,322 people, only 9.3% would not pay more to attend a show where vaccines were required. An overwhelming 73.1% insisted they’d shell out “a bit more,” while 17.5% said they’d pay “a lot more.” For those of you scoring at home, that’s more than 90% in the camp willing to buy additional Covid-19 security at concerts.

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It is, of course, important to note that this was a Twitter survey, not a scientific study; I’m a professional writer but an amateur data analyst. There are all sorts of mitigating circumstances here, including the demographics of my social following, which likely skews liberal and Millennial, both groups that trend toward this sort of result. People can certainly find a way to vote more than once, though it takes a certain kind of person. The list goes on.

The comments on the poll offered a bit more context (some of it presented thoughtfully, some less so). One reply summed up the general mood: “I wouldn’t attend an indoor show without vaccine mandates.” On either side, passions ran high, mostly along the lines of, “Why should I have to pay more? Better to ban those who aren’t vaxxed.” And a few of the “I won’t go if they mandate it” variety.

None of this is to say we should be expecting concert promoters to start using Covid-19 as an explicit excuse to gouge affluent, coastal, vaccinated customers. It’s an explosive topic, one that most acts and venues don’t want to touch. Many local governments in moderate and liberal districts will follow the example of New York as a compromise between allowing free-for-all super-spreader events and enacting unpopular shutdown measures.

Rather, take consumers’ willingness to potentially pay extra for Covid-19 protections as a positive indication of the live events industry’s health. If folks would actually volunteer to cough up more cash for a vaccinated-only concert, it likely means mandating proof—at least in certain areas—offers promoters more benefits than drawbacks. Furthermore, built-in security provided by programs like New York’s Excelsior Pass could be seen as substantial enough to entice reluctant revelers back to performances. This is great news for a slice of the music business absolutely decimated by Covid-19.

Less certain, however, is how this might hold for more conservative regions—the sorts of places where authorities might be unlikely to enact rules around vaccines. Even there, though, residents may not end up with much choice at major concerts: the two top promoters, Live Nation and AEG, recently announced they’d require proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test for all guests starting in October.

Governments and private companies will likely be the ones footing the bill for Covid-19 security—because they know they’ll have to pay more in the long run if they don’t. Could some of those costs be passed through to the consumer, or create long lines for entry? Probably, but not more than the already-routine checks for firearms, outsize booze and, most dangerous of all, the $1 Poland Spring water bottle. And any additional charge would probably be anonymized in the form of another nebulous service fee.

Consumers in conservative parts of the country will be the ones with a decision to make: whether to go to indoor shows run by independent promoters. Many of these operators may not issue (or enforce) requirements such as those issued by Live Nation and AEG, especially at types of shows where mandates could actually hurt turnout. That's where I could envision measures along the lines of the vaccinated-only sections we saw more at live events earlier in the pandemic, perhaps for a price.

Which brings me back to the title of this post: Would you pay more to attend a concert (or a section of a concert) for vaccinated people only? Does your answer change depending on whether we’re talking indoor or outdoor shows? Should I keep digging at this topic or leave it to the epidemiologists? Eager to hear your thoughts.

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