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2021 in Review: Did the Live Events Industry Come Back?
By Memorial Day, airports are filled with enthusiastic travelers. Event-goers looked forward to the return of massive festivals like Chicago’s Lollapalooza. Then the summer brought the Delta variant a
We’re not quite off this pandemic rollercoaster yet - but there is plenty of reason to celebrate
At the beginning of 2021, things were beginning to look up for the live events industry. By Memorial Day, airports filled with enthusiastic travelers. Event-goers looked forward to the return of massive festivals like Chicago’s Lollapalooza. Then the summer brought the Delta variant and some fears that our industry may be in for another tidal wave.
By September, though, many of us saw our schedules start to fill up. We breathed a sigh of relief when we discovered that for every one event canceled due to COVID concerns, six new events were scheduled. By December, some live event professionals have been claiming the busiest December on record.
So what really happened, according to the numbers? What aspects of the live events industry are still recovering and evolving? And what has changed for good? Join us on a walk down data lane to see for yourself.
All data within this article is sourced from LASSO’s software platform unless otherwise noted.
We’re not just recovering from 2020 - we’re thriving
If the past couple of years has taught us anything it’s that the future can be hard to predict. But it’s also taught us how resilient we are as live event professionals, taking whatever comes in stride and finding a way forward.
We mean it when we say: the comeback is greater than the setback. When you look at the number of events scheduled in the LASSO platform in 2020 alone, it’s a sad reminder of a tough year. But when you compare that to the number of events scheduled for 2021, you find your happy ending - the number of events increased by 177% from 2020.
How do we know this comeback is greater than the setback? When we compare total events in 2020 to the last “normal” year we had - 2019 - the difference is clear. Let these numbers serve as an even greater encouragement: the number of events in 2021 increased 45% from 2019.
Luckily the same trend applies in even greater numbers for the increase in live event job positions. That means folks are getting back to work:
The number of hired positions naturally dwarfs the numbers from 2020, and even makes 2019’s numbers look small in comparison. While the number of positions crewed in 2021 increased 242% from 2020 - a leap you may expect after such a tough year - LASSO’s data indicate that the industry is on a long-term growth trajectory: The number of positions crewed in 2021 was a whopping 77% increase from the number of positions crewed in 2019.
Now those are some numbers we can all feel good about.
Industry revenue is projected to grow to even grander heights
According to revenue growth projections by market research firm Research Dive, this industry growth trend is real. In news that may surprise some, the pandemic has actually helped the live events industry innovate and grow in certain key ways.
- Event sponsorship has evolved leaps and bounds with the advent of hybrid events. With two audiences - both in-person and virtual - event sponsors have been innovating new and exciting ways to create audience engagement. Gone are the days when sponsorship meant logo placement. Today’s sponsors are savvy and finding creative ways to make a truly meaningful impression on audience members.
- Another advantage of hybrid events is the doubling, tripling, quadrupling, and beyond of audience size. While many fans eagerly welcome the return of live festivals and concerts, thousands more will take advantage of the opportunity to pay to watch from home.
- Entertainment as a sub-industry is simply booming like never before, especially among millennials. The rebound to enjoy life and spend money on events like concerts has set the events industry up for long-term projected growth.
All in all, Research Dive’s white paper predicts that the global live events industry will grow at an annual rate of 23.1% (CAGR) from 2021-2028. Even if reality doesn’t bear out half as optimistically as these predictions, that’s still great news for the events & entertainment industry.
We need to build back the live events industry workforce
It’s no surprise that as an industry, we lost lots of good people in 2020. In an industry where, for better or for worse, many still work as contract freelancers, workers without sufficient safety nets had no choice but to find other means to earn a living. (Learn more about employee classification here.)
It wasn’t bad news for everybody. Some former freelancers found jobs that suited them better - jobs that fit the weekday 9 to 5 schedule, and allowed them more time with their families while sparing them the grind of the road. Some even took the pandemic as an opportunity to retire.
Whatever their reason for leaving, there’s no doubt in the data that we’re looking at a labor shortage in the live events industry. When we compare the median number of current active crew profiles per LASSO user in 2019 to today’s number (December 2021), we see a 26% decrease in the median number of active crew profiles.
Many of these folks have moved on permanently. It’s important that as an industry we support initiatives like AV Educate, Evolve Academy, Brighter Boston, and the many others who are doing the important work of making sure the events & entertainment space has the highly skilled workforce we need to rebound fully. Without access to quality technical training, we have a long way to go to see ourselves through this phase of our industry’s development.
In the short-term, many AV production companies are looking for alternative labor solutions. One solution LASSO offers is the Crew Marketplace, a tech-enabled marketplace that allows LASSO users to submit additional labor requests to supplement their AV talent bench directly within the platform.
Companies in need of talent can learn more here.
AV event professionals looking to find more gigs can learn more here.
What is going to happen with live events and the new COVID variant?
We don’t have any soothsayers on staff, but we can look at the numbers from December 2021 and so far, we can all remain cautiously optimistic:
Here you can see the number of events scheduled in the LASSO platform (yellow) versus those canceled: Cancellation rates remained consistent with earlier months, and even as events scheduled inside the platform slowed during the holidays (as expected), cancellations did not spike and the numbers remain even a little better than earlier months:
For every 1 event canceled, almost 7 new events were scheduled.