AEG Covid-19 Paul Samuels

The Return To Live – Why This Should Not Be The ‘New Normal’

By Paul Samuels | October 6, 2020

While both the entertainment world and much of the sporting world find themselves in a stationary position until fans are able to resume attending events, Paul Samuels, AEG’s Executive Vice President of Global Partnerships, takes issue with a key piece of terminology being banded around in his new blog.

As I look back in my 44 years in this world, it is very difficult to distinguish between most years. Life does merge into one.  There are of course a few years that stand out, and years I will never forget.

Those years stand out due to milestone events. Either in my personal life i.e. the year I got married (2007), or professional life i.e. the year The O2 opened (2007) – yes 2007 was a busy year for me! – or general major events like the royal wedding in 1981 or 1987’s great storm. I can guarantee 2020 for all of us will join that unique set of years that will never be forgotten. That said, it will become history, and however big the magnitude it is now, in reality we will move forward, business and life in general will return, and thankfully it will be something that we will be able to put behind us.

No this is not the new normal. This maybe the new “temporary” normal, but this is not the new norm. Life will get back to normal. We have to get back to normal.

When COVID-19 hit in January – none of us anticipated what was to come. Who knew we would learn such new words and phrases that would be joining our vocabulary. ‘Social distancing’, ‘self isolating’, ‘furlough’, ‘lockdown’, ‘keyworkers’, ‘zoom’, ‘teams chat’ or…..

…… ‘sorry I was on mute’. 

Though 2020 will be something we look at in our rear view mirror, no doubt these phrases will be to. But there is one phrase that stands out for me the most and it is the one phrase that annoys me the most – “the new norm”.

No this is not the new normal. This maybe the new “temporary” normal, but this is not the new norm.  Life will get back to normal. We have to get back to normal. This will be a temporary situation.  We have to remind ourselves, the world has changed – but in life as well as the entertainment industry, we are constantly changing and evolving.

To suggest we will live in a different world post COVID-19 is not something I subscribe to.

Yes, it may speed up some planned innovation, but to suggest we will live in a different world post COVID-19 is not something I subscribe to, it can, and I really believe it will, easily turn back to “normal” just as quickly. It has to.  

For example, at The O2 and across AEG for the past two years, we have created a venue app that has allowed AEG to offer in-seat ordering, purchasing of merchandise and an efficient communications platform. This was all done pre COVID-19, however it will of course now be a way to track and trace customers and reduce contact at concessions. This has not launched just because of COVID-19 but COVID-19 will speed up its usage.

We have recently launched our mobile ticketing platform via our ticketing company. Their Mobile ID was designed to combat secondary ticketing, eliminate paper tickets and access additional customer data, and yes, it helps to decrease contact across our venues.

The O2 has been cashless for over a year in order to speed up queue times and increase operational efficiencies, and this also helps reduce contact with staff.

These are a few examples of where our business may accelerate some of our plans, but this isn’t a revolution as being suggested in some quarters. 

As we move into Q3/4, children are back at school, professional sport is back and while advice on returning to the office has recently changed, we will certainly be putting them to good use in the future.

Without the fans in attendance, there is no passion, there is no vibe and across the majority of sports where TV broadcast revenues are not the be all and end all, attendance is the key revenue driver.

There will be restrictions in this “new temporary norm” – but this is not sustainable. Yes sports teams may be able to play, and fans will be able to view (via TV, online), but without the fans in attendance, there is no passion, there is no vibe and across the majority of sports where TV broadcast revenues are not the be all and end all, attendance is the key revenue driver.

This is exactly the same, for live music and entertainment. It is impossible to replicate the experience of going to a concert online, and it impossible for the commercials to add up to run events at reduced capacity.  There might be the odd show that plays out to reduced audiences but these will be gimmicks, not commercial viable events to drive significant revenues that an artist, promoter or agent need to survive.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, even if that tunnel has just got a bit longer. Soon enough, we will be buying tickets to watch our favourite sports team or to sing along to our favourite artist at a gig once again.

That will be the new normal, not this temporary period people are calling the “new norm”.

AEG Covid-19 Paul Samuels