It was announced this week the 63rd annual Grammy Awards would be shifting its ceremony scheduled for later this month to the middle of March. While the move isn’t completely unexpected, given the ramped up spread of Covid-19 in Los Angeles where the event is set to take place, it may very well be a sign of things to come for the music industry.
“After thoughtful conversations with health experts, our host and artists scheduled to appear, we are rescheduling the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards to be broadcast Sunday, March 14, 2021,” said Recording Academy executives in part about the event originally slated for Jan. 31 in a statement. “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of those in our music community and the hundreds of people who work tirelessly on producing the show.”
The Grammys join other high-profile awards shows like the Oscars and the Golden Globes in having adjusted their schedules for what will hopefully be a better date given the continued rollout of vaccines. Unfortunately, the delays may end up extending even further or turn virtual, making these delays more instances of buying time than anything else.
Forget about tuxedo filled nights of industry feting though, what this really does is bring into sharper focus just how far away we are from getting things back to any semblance of how people are used to enjoying music related events. The Grammys had planned performances and acceptance speeches from artists an unspecified number of fans in attendance. Deeming what looks on the surface to be easy, hard – just remove the audience – makes something like a multi-day festival absolutely impossible.
Last year, Coachella announced its multi-weekend fest would be moved from April to October before finally giving up on 2020 and setting it for April 9-11 and April 16-18 of this year. At press time, those dates were still locked in, almost laughably, as buzz continued it would once again shoot for fall.
Long the indicator for how the festival season will play out each year in terms of talent, Coachella now finds itself in the unenviable position of leading others like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza into uncertainty and if the event can even take place. Holding off to the very last moment to move to the fall has organizers nervous that if they do have to eventually cancel October again, it could prove disastrous.
Remember, there are people who plan entire vacations around this sort of thing, never mind booking flights and hotels with businesses that won’t be so willing to dole out a refund should the country partially open up by then, just not enough for thousands upon thousands to mash up together in a field to check out Calvin Harris or Travis Scott. Bump it back over and over and it’s going to negatively affect the bottom line for a long time to come.
That said, experts are saying we can expect to see many restrictions begin to ease by sometime mid to late summer for larger gatherings. What it will look like when that does happen is anyone’s guess, but it won’t be packed venues for concerts – big or small. And those expectations are factoring in if more than half of the population gets vaccinated. Given how politicized the pandemic has become, there’s no telling if that is even feasible within seven or eight months. Will the Grammys take place in March? It’s highly doubtful, at least the way organizers hope for it to go down. What we’ll probably see is a highly modified event, with lots of pre-recorded performances and virtual acceptance speeches. It’s still the biggest night for popular music, but not at the cost of delaying smaller nights for everyone else.
A version of this article appears in this week’s print and online editions in of my syndicated Rock Music Menu column under the title “Grammy Awards Reschedule a Sign of Things to Come.”