With the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in full swing, it’s easy to imagine a return to pre-pandemic life around the corner. But more than 8 in 10 American adults won’t enjoy a game, dance at a concert, or laugh at a comedy show anytime soon.
A new survey from Bankrate.com shows that only 16% of American adults have purchased tickets to an upcoming live event. These ticket purchases include:
- Concerts or music festivals (8%)
- Live theater or comedy (6%)
- Professional or college games or other sporting events (5 percent)
- Other events requiring advance tickets (2 percent)
“For all we’ve heard about pent-up demand and revenge spending, the vast majority of Americans are taking a wait-and-see attitude to live events,” says Bankrate.com analyst Ted Rossman.
In fact, Rossman points out that restaurants, retail shopping, and even travel appear to be rebounding faster than big live events: “Our data suggests consumers aren’t clamoring for these kinds of tickets right now.”
Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to hold tickets
Although the majority of fully vaccinated U.S. adults belong to the 65+ together, young consumers are the most eager to return to live events. In fact, 26% of Millennials (ages 25-40) and 25% of Gen Z adults (ages 18-24) have tickets in hand for an upcoming live event.
In contrast, far fewer Baby Boomers (aged 57 to 75) and members of the Silent Generation (aged 76 and older) have live event plans on their calendars. Only eight percent of Baby Boomers and only four percent of the Silent Generation have purchased tickets to events. Gen Xers (aged 41 to 56) fall in the middle, with 13% planning to attend an upcoming event.
The survey found that 65% of baby boomers have been fully immunized or expect to be fully immunized, compared to 51% of Gen Xers, 44% of Millennials and just 32% of Gen Z members. .
A millennial who recently bought tickets to a live event, writer and water skier Michael Case, moved to Austin, Texas – the âlive music capital of the worldâ – during the pandemic. Case, 28, holds tickets to a blues guitar show on May 1 at Antone, a local concert venue. He paid a table for four for himself, his girlfriend and two other friends.
âAlthough I’m not in the festival scene, live music and humorous events are a part of my life,â says Case. “I can’t wait to have a real passion on display in person and not a pre-recorded show on screen.”
Yet even most young consumers are yet to take the plunge into live events: The survey found that three in four Millennials and Gen Z members do not hold tickets to a live event. And of those who do, at least some are making a cautious comeback with smaller live events that allow some to get away from the rest.
âOne of the main reasons I got all four tickets at a table was that we’ll have our own space,â says Case. “I still don’t agree with the people breathing on me.”
Vaccine passports might not make a big difference
The so-called âvaccine passportsâ have been touted as a free return to something that looks like pre-COVID normalcy. But the poll shows that requiring proof of vaccination won’t necessarily keep attendees coming back to live events.
More than half of American adults (52 percent) have been fully immunized (21 percent) or plan to be soon (31 percent), according to the survey. On the other hand, one in five people (20 percent) say they will likely be vaccinated, but not for some time. Another 20 percent do not intend to be vaccinated and 8 percent are undecided.
But the vaccinated may not be more likely than the unvaccinated to return to live events. In fact, less than one in five (19 percent) of those who are fully vaccinated have tickets, which is not much different from those who plan to be fully vaccinated soon (20 percent) and those who expect to be vaccinated but not for a while (18 percent). This is not entirely surprising, given that one in four American adults still don’t feel comfortable visiting a grocery store, restaurant, or other business in person after being fully immunized.
How about knowing that the other participants will also be vaccinated? One in three American adults (34 percent) say an event planner requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination would make “no difference” in whether or not they attend an event. The others were divided on the issue of the vaccine passport:
- More likely – 38% of American adults would be more likely (18% much more likely and 20% slightly more likely) to attend an event requiring participants to show proof of vaccination. This number increases with income to 51 percent of the highest income households (over $ 80,000 per year). The likelihood of being vaccinated or planning to be vaccinated also increases with income, according to the survey.
- Less likely – 28 percent would be less likely (23 percent much less likely and 5 percent somewhat less likely) to attend. That number likely includes Americans who have not been vaccinated, are not planning to be vaccinated, or have privacy concerns about sharing their vaccination status.
The “bipolarity of these responses” reflects the greater divide in American society, says Jagdish Sheth, professor of marketing at the Goizueta School of Business at Emory University, who wrote on the. impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior.
âThere are two segments of the population,â says Sheth. “You have a group that is very science driven and this other group that feels invincible.”
Household spending and return to live events
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed spending habits as Americans cut spending on live events, dining and travel in favor of take-out meals and Netflix frenzy.
Now, some consumers are adding a âlive eventsâ line item to the household budget and spending a significant amount of money to get back into the arena. The Bankrate.com survey found that consumers who bought tickets spent the most on games and other sporting events, followed by concerts, and then live theater and comedy shows.
Ticket buyers spent on average:
- Games and other sporting events – $ 387
- Concerts and music festivals – $ 227
- Comedy or live theater shows – $ 191
Event goers shelled out even more, an average of $ 527, for other public events requiring advance ticket purchases. This makes sense, as some of these events can be costly. For example, some ticket buyers are forcing up to $ 600 for tickets to the top-notch events of the upcoming South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
Money can be as much or more of a factor than security concerns for many who want to attend live events but haven’t purchased tickets, Sheth says.
âThese tickets can be very expensive,â he says.
He noted that the coronavirus has been unpredictable since the start of the pandemic and consumers know events could still be canceled. Less than generous refund policies don’t help either, Sheth says.
âGiven the frozen cash and the uncertainty of the event, people will be reluctant to book,â he says.
But event planners, sports teams, theater companies and others who throw big events rely on consumers to open their wallets to buy tickets despite the Risks and variants of COVID-19 spread throughout the country.
This season, Major League Baseball allows fans to step into the stands with limited ability (although capacity and security measures vary By location). And the perhaps unrealistic NFL commissioner is counting on full stadiums this autumn. Closed since the start of the pandemic, Broadway may reopen in September 2021.
Event planners can increasingly look to hybrid events with both live audience and simulcast, Sheth predicts, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this as a way to reach a larger audience who for some reason may not be traveling to an event. âI believe that ultimately it will always be a hybrid model,â he said.
But at least some people, especially Gen Y and Gen Z, are eager to return to the live events. Ju Li, 31, co-founder of the cheap flight finder GetBuyLo.com, says he’s âsuper excitedâ to go to a Lindsey Stirling show this summer in Boston, where he lives.
âI got bored of my mind,â Li says. âI’ve tried online events – a free online concert of Of Monsters and Men at the end of last year – but they just don’t feel the same thing.”