AUSTIN, Texas - 2020 has been devastating for music venues around the world, including Austin's favorites.
"From our perspective, our goal is just to kind of tread water and hang on," said Steve Sternschein, co-owner of Empire Control Room and Garage and board member of the National Independent Venue Association.
On Wednesday, Billboard reported Ticketmaster is working on a new plan to set the stage for the return of live music events.
"Anything that anybody's working on to help venues and artists and production staff get back to work is a good thing," Sternschein said.
The plan is to require people who purchase a ticket to show proof they have either been vaccinated or had a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of an event. Ticket holders would need the lab they visit to send results to a third party health company, which would verify results to Ticketmaster.
Sternschein said, while putting together streaming shows for his venue, he found testing protocols difficult to manage even just for staff. "It's extraordinarily expensive and very logistically difficult, so I would be skeptical to think that there is a way for that to be broadly or commercially available to consumers as they enter a show," he said.
He also worries smaller venues that don't use Ticketmaster will be at a further disadvantage if the same technology isn't available to them.
Sternschein explained when he was deciding on protocols for shows at his venues, he realized accuracy and delays in test results created safety gaps. "We've considered every option and I think that I feel more confident in social distancing measures, masking, outdoors, more than six feet between every person, I feel a lot more confident with that approach than I do with testing and not doing social distancing," he said.
Empire and other venues, like ACL Live, are already implementing social distancing, mandatory mask-wearing, and additional cleanings to get somewhat back in business. Even then, revenue is about 10 percent
"It's not a solution. It's just, we're trying as best we can, to keep our staff fed and have roofs over their heads and there's no relief money for us to use to do that, so we have to be open, basically, or we have to be closed forever," said Sternschein.
Without a major breakthrough, like a vaccine accessible to everyone or federal financial support, he's not sure how much longer the shows can go on.