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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The "live economy" — broadway shows, concerts, music festivals and more — is in pandemic purgatory.

What's going on: Some events are getting the green light to restart as vaccinations roll out. But operators in states with audience caps are holding back as they contemplate whether it makes financial sense for the show to go on.

  • California this week will be the latest state to allow concert halls and theaters to reopen — with limits. Capacity can reach up to 50% in the lowest-risk areas, if attendees are tested or show proof of vaccination.
  • Others, like Texas, have not put limits on live event capacity.

The backdrop: The industry was left in financial ruin when the pandemic hit.

  • By the numbers: Before COVID-19, the industry's unemployment rate was 4.7%. It's currently 14.5%, though that's lower than the peak of 47% a year ago.
  • Concert promotion company LiveNation one proxy for the health of the "live industry" — lost $1.6 billion last year. (It was profitable the prior year, making $324 million.)

Driving the news: A small business aid program created for theaters, museums and other performing-arts venues opened on Friday — a first for the sector.

  • But the portal to apply for help closed after a few hours, with the SBA citing technical issues. No word yet on when it will reopen, further delaying aid.

The big question: Whether it's worth it to resume shows with limited capacity. The costs to put on a show largely remain the same no matter the audience size.

  • "Generally speaking, if a venue sells less than 70% of the house, they lose money on the show," says Doug Arthur, an analyst who covers concert company Live Nation at equity research firm Huber Research Partners.
  • The other factor: lack of guidance from states on safety guidelines.

What's happening: Plenty of live events are beginning to pencil in dates this year. The latest: SummerStage music festival in New York said today it will be returning.

  • Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas is set for May, the festival's founder said last week — with details on safety protocols to come.

The other side: Rock band Rage Against the Machine pushed back its reunion tour to next year.

  • Theater producers told the New York Times it's not not "financially feasible" to reopen Broadway shows with restricted capacity.
  • The Coachella art and music festival in California might not return until 2022, the Wall Street Journal reported last week citing an unnamed source.

The bottom line: "The financial model has been flipped on its head," the International Festivals and Events Association's Ira Rosen tells Axios.

  • "If you look at sports venues, they can operate at limited capacity because of their television and merchandise deals. Music festivals don't operate that way."

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

Updated 3 hours ago - Technology

Mayors see cryptocurrency as a way to address income inequality

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

At the U.S. Conference of Mayors' meeting in D.C. this week, there's buzz around the idea of giving cryptocurrency accounts to low-income people.

Why it matters: Cities have been experimenting with newfangled ways to address income inequality — like guaranteed income programs — and the latest wave of trials could involve paying benefits or dividends in bitcoin, stablecoin or other digital currencies.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February
  2. Vaccines: Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker

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