What will the Festival Season Look Like In Canada This Year?
Predictions and current outlooks for the 2021 summer season.
Photo by Wendy Wei All Opinions expressed are that of the author, any official updates should be checked with local guidelines.
Festivals in Montreal, and in Quebec in general, are part of the bread and butter of what makes the summer so exciting. It's the lifeblood of communities from all the facets of culture. With a 2020 season that was close to a flatline pulse, what will the summer of 2021 hold for us? Even though nothing is certain in a COVID world, based on current news, events and trends, here's the most probable scenarios for this summer.
What We Know
Mainstream vaccination is set to start in the Spring, but the majority of people won't be vaccinated until August- September or even later. However, a substantial amount of people at risk will be immune come festival season.
Encouraging results from a Barcelona test concert with over 1000 volunteers showed zero infections. Many other European cities are planning on running similar tests. These results show that live shows are not as much of a transmission hub as previously thought.
Rapid-testing technology, the holy grail solution of the new live music landscape, is currently being deployed in many other countries, mostly in Europe. However, no sign of it being massively deployed in Canadian events as of yet.
Many Festival promoters are optimistic about being able to operate this summer, however the scale and format of the events still remain to be determined based on health recommendations and legal restrictions.
There is still a 14 day quarantine mandate in Canada, which is a major issue for bringing international acts
Using last summer as a base-reference, the capacity for outdoor events was 250 people.
Based on this information as well as insights from industry players, here's what seems most likely to happen for the 2021 season:
The events will most likely be reduced in numbers and be a hybrid between online and in-person events, although we will probably be seeing much more live attendees than last year as well as more events taking place.
The possibility of being able to hold large outdoor events seems very likely, however the scale and format of indoor events is still up in the air.
A management of multiple outdoor zones with <<bubbles>> of 250 spectators at a time seems like the most probable scenario
The events will most likely enforce mask wearing in certain zones of close proximity, but will allow mask-less outdoor areas
The presence of international acts is a coin-toss, however the probability of enjoying local talent is practically certain
Last minute plans to go to a festival or events will be difficult, as we will most likely see more and more advance bookings and reservation options and sold-out events due to limited capacity. More than ever now, early birds will prevail.
No matter what the future holds for live events, virtual experiences are here to stay. Many tech companies are racing to create the next big thing in experiential entertainment to make it like the real thing. Here's what one company in Montreal is doing. The virtual experience will most likely become an add-on that will keep on evolving post-pandemic.
Although Ticketmaster made some noise in its announcement of a possible proof of vaccination to enter festivals, this option does not seem in the books for Canadian events due to conflicts of interest and privacy reasons and seems to have been scrapped due to negative feedback.
Although we probably won't see the massive worry-free crowds of the past, this summer will most likely be a transition that is easier to stomach for both promoters and event-attendees. The big question, especially for larger events is not whether they COULD happen, but rather if they will. Even if they are theoretically possible, the costs of limiting capacity to such an extent may not be feasible for many large events that rely on ticket and merchandise sales. Small to medium events and micro experiences may be more of a safe bet. One thing is for sure, the demand for live entertainment is definitely sky high for 18-35 year olds. As for the older crowds, they may not be so eager to get back so fast, and the transition is likely to be slower for such events that attract more mature audiences. The industry is now faced with a totally different landscape in terms of demand and constraints. With Quebec and Montreal being the hub for festivals and cultural events while at the same time being the place with one of the strictest COVID lockdown measures in the world, one thing is for sure; the slingshot effect seems almost inevitable at this point.
Creativity, smart experience design and know-how will be front and center in the fight to provide an enjoyable and safe experience to the eager masses.
Plan your summer with us
If you are looking for live events and experiences to do this summer, check out our frequently updated experiences menu where you can find a host of activities to attend.