At the start of the pandemic, everything got shut down and this meant that even ticketed events were postponed until further notice. From music festivals like Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra to performances from artists like My Chemical Romance, The Weeknd and Taylor Swift, every single one had no idea when they would be making a comeback, leading their longtime fans to question when they would be allowed to make use of their tickets. The unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside the varying regulations across different states and different administrations, left these popular events’ organizers unsure of how to proceed and what they could possibly tell their attendees.
Some music festivals didn’t cancel until the last second but tried to come back as soon as possible and continued to postpone the events multiple times. Event hosts like Pasquale Rotella, creator of Insomniac, is one example of a host trying not to cancel their music festivals in order to attempt to keep attendees happy. Unfortunately, events that typically boast large crowds were officially canceled until the summer of 2021.
Now that events are back, it doesn’t mean that COVID-19 is no longer an issue or concern. Music festivals are trying to stay open by following health regulations that their respective state has enforced. Some events that have happened with regulations were Hard Summer, Beyond Wonderland and Nocturnal Wonderland.
Hard Summer was the first big event in Los Angeles post-COVID-19, reported to have 160,000 attendees. While masks were recommended, they were not required and neither was proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. This did change for Insomniac’s future events, as both Beyond and Nocturnal Wonderland required proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, as will EDC and Escape.
However even with proof, how safe can these festivals truly be? The music festivals have tried to stay on top of the health and safety of attendees by maintaining quality sanitation standards all through the concert grounds and some events have even had vaccination tents for free vaccines. And, while vaccines might help slow the spread of COVID-19, it does not guarantee that those who are vaccinated will not get sick.
Likewise, while attendees can provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, some are falsified and oftentimes those checking are security who may not care enough about their jobs. A lot of trust goes into going to music festivals post-quarantine. The overall sanitation of the grounds is also not kept up enough to consider it safe. Porta-a-potties are still not clean and water and soap run out before the end of the night.
Unlike Insomniac, Ultra Music Festival, which was planned to take place in March in Miami, did not postpone its event and instead canceled it due to the conditions of the pandemic. State and city officials stated that the event would jeopardize the health of the attendees due to the city’s current status. Coachella, which was supposed to be held a month later in April, was also outright canceled because of California’s pandemic status at the time. Tomorrowland, supposed to be held in Belgium in July, was canceled due to the region’s local government denying the permit to hold the event.
As festivals continue to be canceled or postponed, this also changes the plans of the guests who would have liked to attend, whether they can still attend or not. Festival organizers have been understanding of this and are allowing festivalgoers a chance to cancel their ticket or transfer it to a future year if the current event was only postponed. EDC, for example, is normally held in May and for the year of 2021, was postponed to late October, a week before Escape. If a guest had bought a ticket early enough, they were allowed to transfer their ticket to EDC 2022 or cancel their ticket. However, the transfer and canceling of tickets only work for those who have had tickets for a long period of time. Those who acquire tickets right before the event do not have this option.
Other events like AFROPUNK made masks mandatory at all times unless eating or drinking and featured sanitation stations that regularly cleaned all frequently touched surfaces. The event also downsized the number of available tickets in order to make the audience size smaller, hoping it would decrease the possible spread of COVID-19.
Some events that were held at the beginning of the festival season that did not require any proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test did have more attendees reporting that they got COVID-19 afterward. Reports of positive COVID-19 tests have since gone down.
While masks have remained mandatory to enter buildings in the city of LA, proof of vaccination will also now be required to enter bars as well. Music festivals will likely either be forced to follow suit or willingly do so to protect their attendees. While the debate of whether the vaccine should be mandated or not has been a hot topic in certain counties, this will now be enforced for those going out, making it harder for people to get into certain places. Yet, once again, not all establishments are forcing their patrons to show proof of vaccination, putting other patrons at risk.
While music festivals continue to move forward, how organizers handle the pandemic and the safety of their attendees will also progress and adjust. At the beginning of the pandemic, music festivals like Rolling Loud and Hard Summer did not enforce restrictions and regulations, but now, they do; likewise, music festivals will continue to become safer. However, now, managing risk lies with the people. Each person holds their own responsibility as they have throughout the pandemic to help slow the spread. Fake vaccine cards and doctoring negative COVID-19 tests only hurt those in attendance and may hurt the future of music festivals if they are deemed unsafe due to the continual spread of the virus.