MANILA -- The effects of the coronavirus pandemic can be felt everywhere, but particularly on the live events industry, making the mounting of concerts impossible for an indefinite period of time.
Five months into the year, Filipinos have already seen cancellations or postponement of one local or foreign act after the other.
Since health authorities prevent mass gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus, concert producers are left with no other choice but to put live events on hold.
In a Faith over Fear online fundraising discussion on Wednesday, Cacai Velasquez Mitra of the I-Music Entertainment, Jeff Vadillo of Cornerstone Entertainment, Rhiza Pascua of MMI Live, and Bogie de Guia of Ovation Productions all agreed that the concert scene in the Philippines before the pandemic was very much alive.
They described 2019 as a very good year for the industry, having organized a lot of successful local and foreign concerts. That’s why it was really a blow when the pandemic hit at the start of 2020.
“Last year we were able to do seven concerts. This year ang taas ng projection namin, siguro minimum of 10. Nakaplano na kami ahead of time. We already talked to venues, we already have dates and everything’s mapped out. The moment the pandemic came in, lahat nabura,” said Vadillo.
“Lahat talaga na-cancel. We were supposed to have a tour nung concert namin with Sharon Cuneta but cancelled din. The same thing with Jeff, buti na lang natuloy 'yung Valentine concert namin but still nung time na 'yon, we were also thinking of plan B in case magkaroon ng lockdown. Good thing lang talaga na natuloy. Kahit paano, may pondo ka for the rest of the year,” added Mitra.
Vadillo said this is not easy for any producer because cancelling a concert results in a loss even if there are plans to reschedule.
“We are not just affected. I think we were to some degree decimated by this pandemic because the business involves a crowd. That is the one thing that we are trying to avoid right now. It’s really a very challenging situation,” he said.
Pascua, for her part, described this the current situation as the worst case scenario come to life.
“It just showed how vulnerable our business model is. 'Yung business model na ginagawa pala natin for decades, turned out to be weak when it came to this pandemic… The social distancing is the answer to safety, but that is where our nightmare is coming from. It’s a logistical nightmare for the touring party,” she said.
When asked if they think there will be any concerts happening in the last quarter of the year, de Guia said they are optimistic.
“For now, we are optimistic. We see the infection rate in our country somewhat slowing, not really flattening but it’s slowing despite as many feared. We are hoping that by the fourth quarter, there’s a semblance of normalcy,” he said.
De Guia said the Ovation Productions is planning four to five shows for the fourth quarter of the year. This will happen with guidelines in place that they are currently trying to get approved, and, of course, with the cooperation of all concertgoers when it comes to personal hygiene and safety.
The same is true for MMI Live, although Pascua explained that there are really a lot of factors that must be considered.
“I’m optimistic but somehow disappointed that I actually don’t think that we’ll be doing a 12,000 capacity or anything higher in the near future. There are a lot of factors to consider. It will be a gradual thing,” she said.
But even with protocols, Vadillo lamented that the dynamics of a live concert can’t really be changed so much.
“Sa akin, safety talaga. It’s beyond us. If the powers that be, the doctors, na makaimbento talaga ng gamot, that will change the mood, the environment and mindset of people. Thermal scanners nandoon na iyan. Pero paano mo idi-distance 'yung mga tao sa loob ng venue, six feet from each other?” he said.
What’s currently happening everywhere in the world is people are avoiding a crowd and Vadillo noted that goes against the very concept of having a concert.
Having said that, Vadillo thinks the goal should be to make sure the businesses stay afloat through this difficult time.
“Having a concert is you build a crowd and you enjoy a music together. We really have to answer safety first. To be honest, how do we prepare for that, is just to stay afloat. Keep your company alive until this is all over. The moment na matapos ito, there will be a demand for experiences kasi na-miss nila. Kahit maliit ang pera, ibabayad nila iyan kasi na-miss nila, ang tagal nawala,” he said.
It also matters, Pascua and de Guia stressed, that stakeholders involved should adjust post-pandemic to get live entertainment back again.
“I think the artists, management companies, the agents as well should understand because they are also going through what we are going through. There have been around 35,000 something that have been laid off in the entertainment industry. They should understand where everyone is coming from," Pascua said.
“Before people start buying tickets again, they would consider kung meron ba silang disposable income for this… Siguro kailangan 'yung talent fee nila bumaba din. Ang ticket prices din bumaba. Taxes din bumaba. Malaki din ang binabayaran naming taxes. Venues bumaba din sana. Sana lahat mag-adjust,” she added.
Currently, Metro Manila, where most concerts in the country are staged, is transitioning into a modified lockdown until the end of the month, but mass gatherings are still not allowed.