PromoWest venues to require proof of vaccination

The policy, announced today by AEG Presents, will be phased in, with proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test required for concerts starting on Aug. 18

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Express Live

Within the live music industry, momentum has steadily been building to require concertgoers to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to attend an event. The push has developed in response to the current nationwide spike in coronavirus cases, which is being driven by the highly transmittable delta variant.

Today, the dam broke on the policy, with nationwide promoter AEG Presents announcing that it will require proof of vaccination for entry into all of the properties it controls, including concert venues and music festivals. The policy will apply both to staff members and attendees, and will be phased in beginning on Aug. 18, when concertgoers will be required to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours of the event. Beginning on Oct. 1, proof of vaccination must be provided and a negative COVID test will no longer be acceptable for entry. The October date was chosen to afford concertgoers the time needed to reach full vaccination, and the policy will only be limited as required by law.

“We have come to the conclusion that, as a market leader, it was up to us to take a real stand on vaccination status,” said Jay Marciano, COO of AEG and chairman and CEO of AEG Presents, in a press release.

The policy lands the day after Danny Wimmer Presents announced that it would require either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for attendance at any of its festivals, including Inkcarceration, which takes place Sept. 10-12 at the Ohio Reformatory in Mansfield.

"We are at an unprecedented crossroads with uncertainty about whether or not our festivals will happen this fall," Wimmer said. “It is not my nature to idly sit back and let others decide our fate. Instead, I am going to do everything in my power to ensure that our festivals happen, even if that means enacting policies that some people may not agree with."

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Here in Columbus, the AEG decision has a fairly seismic impact, affecting all of the venues that operate under the umbrella of PromoWest, which was acquired by AEG Presents in 2018, including the Basement, A&R Bar, Newport Music Hall and Express Live. These join a handful of local venues that already had established vaccine requirements for entry, including Spacebar, Ace of Cups, Dirty Dungarees and both locations of Natalie’s.

The first PromoWest concerts impacted by the new policy will be Squeeze at Express Live, scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 18, and Louis the Child, which is set to take place at Express Live the following day.

Prior to promoters stepping in, much of the vaccination policy push had been driven by musicians such as Jason Isbell, Japanese Breakfast and Bully, who have established policies of only playing venues that will put vaccine mandates in place.

Isbell, in particular, has been vocal about his decision, speaking both on social media and with news organizations about how prioritizing public health is important not only for efforts to turn the tide on the pandemic, but for ensuring the long-term viability of the music industry.

“People who work at the venues and who work in the music business understand,” Isbell said in an interview on MSNBC. “All the response I’ve gotten from people in the business has been positive because they understand we could go back to not working at all. A lot of these smaller venues, they’re not going to be able to reopen if they go through another round of shutdowns.”