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NEW DELHI : The live events industry, one of the hardest hit by the covid-19 pandemic, is trying to limp back to normalcy as some states ease restrictions. Small gigs in the comedy and music segment in Goa, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Kolkata are taking place with audience sizes ranging from 200-300. While regular ticket prices range from 500 to 1,000, some premium ones can go up to 2,500. With sponsorships limited at this point, local, home-grown brands are stepping in for selective on-ground events and digital events.

“There is a definite rise in demand (for live events) across cities. However, the format of events tends to be smaller-capacity ones where covid safety protocols can be implemented appropriately. Awareness has improved significantly as we have been witnessing most transacting audiences to be vaccinated while continuing to wear masks through the event even as they are enjoying getting out," Anil Makhija, chief operating officer, live entertainment and venues at BookMyShow said.

Music experiences in Goa, smaller, staggered comedy and music shows and weekend community experiences in Mumbai, restaurant and club music performances with artistes such as Yo Yo Honey Singh, Lucky Ali, B Praak, rappers Emiway Bantai and DIVINE have been running to full house despite limited occupancies, Makhija said.

“The demand for stand-up comedy and regional theatrical experiences and events has been shooting up in Ahmedabad while Bengaluru has been witnessing an early start to shows across comedy and music given the 50% capacity protocol coupled with night curfews in the city," he added.

Varun Khare, business head, live entertainment (IPs and partnerships), Paytm Insider, said apart from waiting for relevant permissions to resume events across states, the live events industry is exiting the traditional off season owing to heat and monsoons. "We're seeing markets like Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Kolkata open up to events just as other establishments have in these cities. We're also expecting a few more cities to open up at the end of September or by early October," Khare said.

Most events until the end of September are largely in pubs, clubs or smaller establishments that can accommodate between 60 and 200 people, keeping new norms in mind. “There are a couple of large indoor outlets, too, that have opened up. Towards early October, we're expecting a couple of cities to allow controlled outdoor events to begin as well. With the exception of a few events, we haven't yet hit pre-covid ticket rates across the board," Khare added.

Despite some positive momentum with smaller gigs, Ankit Khanna, founder of talent management agency AK Projekts that manages artistes like Raftaar said the company had only locked about 30 shows over the past two years as compared to 150 plus for various artistes pre-pandemic every year.

“Sponsors are being conservative. They've discovered newer ways to market products digitally. If a show could get let's say, Rs. 4 crore pre pandemic, the same will get only Rs. 1 crore now," Khanna said. Karan Singh, chief operating officer, Percept Live, the live entertainment division of Percept Ltd said sponsors are also waiting for larger outdoor events to be allowed because that always represents better value and scale for them and for event companies too.

Organised events and activations is a Rs. 10,000 crore industry, according to a EY-EEMA (Event and Entertainment Management Association) report. But as per EEMA’s informal estimates, if the unorganised segment is included, the industry size could be as big as Rs. 5 trillion. Mint had earlier reported that events industry took a 70% hit in revenues in 2020.

Roshan Abbas, president, EEMA said the lockdown restrictions were eased last year but the people are somewhat not comfortable with physical events due to fear of the third wave. “The beginning of the year brought in some hope and the number of event queries for later in the year started to rise but after such a strong second wave, the industry is still not sure of the future," Abbas added.

“Live events will need to change dramatically and become more cost-effective and environment-friendly to see a sustainable future going forward. Artistes will need to drop their heavy riders and promoters will need to find ways to ensure shows don't go over-the-top with budgets as the masses now have limited budgets to spare on entertainment," Khanna said.

Promoters need to curate bespoke events with utmost care about audience safety with only the fully vaccinated being allowed and social distancing, Khanna said. “A lot of automation is also required in the live events business since preparation for large-scale events entails huge manpower and this might pose a challenge in a pandemic," he added.

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