What the 2020 CMA Awards Taught Us About the Return of Live Country Music
This is why we can't have nice things.
Standard language in every concert cancellation and new concert announcement in 2020 insists that the health and safety of fans is most important. As it turns out, the artists need to check themselves, too.
Six of the 22 scheduled CMA Awards performances were affected by COVID-19. That's about one in four, and it wasn't the typical party crowd. Instead, family men including a member of Rascal Flatts and Lee Brice, Lady A and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line were either infected or isolated due to contact tracing before entering the awards show's bubble.
Everyone had ample opportunity to isolate and quiet his or her social interactions in the days and weeks leading up to the ceremony, and there's no evidence that indicates anyone was out there running wild before getting tested. We can assume compliance and good behavior for the greater good.
But still, 27 percent of the lineup got the coronavirus. Would you buy a concert ticket if there was a one-in-four chance the show would get canceled? Would you insure or finance one?
Artists, understandably, want to get back to playing music because it's how they make money to pay their mortgage as well as the band and professional team they each employ. In an interview with Taste of Country prior to the CMAs, Sara Evans lamented that her tour manager was hanging sheetrock just to get by. Many other artists can share a similar story, or may be doing similar things themselves to pay the bills. The risk vs. reward balance of hitting the road feels right for them in this case, but it's short-sighted.
The lasting effects of COVID-19 are still a terrifying question mark. One in five survivors look to be in for some kind of mental illness (per Reuters, which sourced the Lancet Psychiatry journal). Memory loss, heart problems or just a general haze and fatigue — the "long COVID," as it's become known — are other reported long-term side effects. Without a doubt, the money problems people are having are real, but who out there is signing up for a life of not remembering your kids' birthdays in exchange for an extra year of doing what you love?
Once back to work, the risks only increase. Tour buses may be a traveling bubble, but on Wednesday night (Nov. 11), we witnessed what happens when any two old friends get together after time apart. Hugs and kisses — KISSES! — were exchanged as artists including Old Dominion strolled to the stage to accept an award.
Without a doubt, everyone in attendance trusted the rigid safety protocols put in place by ABC and the Country Music Association, and maybe that's a fine thing to do. Maybe masks and elbow bumps are an unnecessary security blanket when everyone has been properly vetted.
Those same rigid measures can be taken on the road, but time will chip away at best practices, to the point that kisses hello will be common once again. We literally just watched it happen, and, frankly, it's human nature. By now we know that there are a million ways to contract the coronavirus, but for the most part, the industry has focused on the front gate when as real a risk is that gravel road that brings a tour bus backstage.
There's no shame in wanting to celebrate or greet an old friend with a hug or a cold beer. Let's just be honest about how it's going to happen.