Demand Growing for Drive-In Concerts Across Canada by Both Fans & Industry

There is an increasing momentum, and obvious fan demand, for “drive-in concerts” across Canada. Being organized to give a boost to the live music industry and satiate fans’ appetite for live music during the pandemic shutdowns, these concerts will see fans stay in their vehicles while the artists perform live on stage, much like a drive-in movie theatre.

The concept first took off in Europe, where successful drive-in concerts have be held in Denmark and elsewhere. “It was so awkward in the beginning because people were sitting behind their front window in the car and it was kind of silent," Mads Langer, the Danish musicians who played one of the first drive-in concerts, recently told the CBC. "But then people would start blowing their horns, waving from the left side window — which they were allowed to have open — or turning on their windshield wipers, stuff like that. When they were really excited they also used the windscreen washer."

Now Canadian artists and promoters are getting in on the action. The first drive-in concert in Canada is scheduled for May 23 by B.C.-based band Studio 720. They will play the rooftop of the CN Centre at Exhibition Park in Prince George, BC. In fact, it was originally planned for the rooftop of a Canadian Tire and then moved to the new location to allow for more cars because of the demand. Clearly fans are eager for some live entertainment and to get out of the house.

The first band to commit to the idea, though, was indie-rockers July Talk, who announced in they they’ll play two drive-in concerts on August 12th and 13th at a to-be-announced drive-in theatre near Toronto.

And more recently, Canadian country star Brett Kissel just sold out six drive-in concerts scheduled for June at a casino parking lot in Edmonton. He will play three, two-hour show per day for the vehicle-bound fans on June 13th and 14th.

At these drive-in shows, like is done at drive-in movie theatres, the audio from the stage will be fed through a radio signal that the drivers tune into. In the case of Kissel’s shows, they will be broadcast nationally by Stingray FM. The band members will be physically-distanced on stage and separate by plexiglass shields.

As well, one of the industry’s largest concert promoters, Live Nation, has also said it will test drive-on concerts and fanless concert broadcasts. “Over the summer there will be testing happening, whether it’s fan-less concerts, which offer great broadcast opportunities and are really important for our sponsorship business; drive-in concerts, which we’re going to test and roll out and we’re having some success with; or reduced-capacity festival concerts, which could be outdoors in a theater on a large stadium floor, where there’s enough room to be safe,” Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said on an earnings call in early-May.

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Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief at Canadian Musician and Canadian Music Trade magazines. He also hosts the Canadian Musician Podcast.
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