HITS Daily Double


“It’s very fluid,” Irving Azoff says of the live landscape amid the Delta surge. “Things are changing moment by moment. Never in my career would I have imagined we’d be in the situation we’re in today. It’s like a military operation.”

Nonetheless, the mega-mogul, who manages several artists now on tour and several more about to hit the road, finds much reason for optimism—even regarding states where cases are high and politicians are, to say the least, unhelpful.

Azoff-repped rock icons the Eagles became the tip of the spear for the touring community by decreeing that proof of full vaccination is required for all new shows (including Seattle, which went on sale 8/13 and sold out; a new, vaxx-only show on 11/6 has just been added). Either proof of full vaccination or a recent negative COVID test result is required for admission to previously postponed shows. Dead & Company followed suit with similar protocols.

Azoff brushes aside rumors that buildings have been uncooperative about planned COVID protocols. “There’s no ‘building pushback,’” he insists. “The pushback is coming from two logistical problems. One is the limited availability of COVID tests. Buildings are saying yes to testing, but if you’ve gone to every CVS in your city and they’re all out, what do you do? Meanwhile, you’ve got some providers saying, ‘Hey, I asked for 50,000 tests and they sent me 500.’ It’s a supply-chain problem; the demand exceeds the supply. I don't think these companies were expecting the Delta variant to come so quickly, and they didn't know there'd be demand for the number of tests now being required by the public.”

“If COVID protocols break down because we can't do testing,” Azoff affirms, “there'll be some canceled shows.”

The other key problem, he says, “is places like Florida and Texas, where you’ve got governors and governmental bodies throwing roadblocks.”

Another logistical obstacle comes from the shortage of skilled stagehands who are vaccinated and union members. Azoff notes that Live Nation and some venues are in some instances offering to fly in vaxxed and qualified crew.

Despite the complexities of the moment, he says he’s heartened to see remarkable cooperation in the business. “The industry’s really pulling together and everybody's working to keep the shows on,” he says, pointing to the glitch-free success of current tours by Jimmy Buffett, Kings of Leon, Maroon 5 and others. The Eagles and Dead & Company will hit the road soon. “We’ve established protocols and we’re doing the best we can,” Azoff relates. “But we’re mostly dealing with logistical issues here.”

The political issues with certain states, of course, are another matter. Florida’s Senate Bill 2006, signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis in May, prohibits so-called “vaccine passports” and limits other protocols in the name of “personal choice” and arresting “government overreach,” a persistent conservative bugbear. An executive order issued by Texas Governor Greg Abbott had a similar effect.

“There are teams of lawyers in every city working on local solutions to each case,” Azoff says, noting that at one particular building in a Florida market, attorneys are “working around the clock to try and declare the law unconstitutional so that they can keep their shows. So far, we have not canceled a show in Texas or Florida due to these restrictions, and we're doing our best to work around them. But you never know.”

“The easiest thing for us would’ve been to throw in the towel and move all the dates to next year and hope COVID’s over,” Azoff reflects. “But the fans have waited long enough. The bands have waited long enough. Jimmy Buffett had no interest in postponing—he's out there working.”

So that’s where the military operation stands at present, according to the person who could reasonably be called its general. Stay tuned.