Whoever said \u201cthe show must go on\u201d wasn\u2019t booking bands during a pandemic. These days, following that old adage is a surefire way to make people mad. Citing fan demand, LCD Soundsystem in December pressed on with a 20-show residency at Brooklyn Steel in New York City until they ultimately decided to cancel the last three performances over a wave of emergent COVID cases. A few days earlier, the band had promised refunds to any ticketholder who felt that going posed too great a risk. \u201cUs playing the show is in no way an indicator that it\u2019s safe to attend,\u201d LCD Soundsystem wrote as part of a confusing statement posted on Twitter. By contrast, Wilco\u2019s Sky Blue Sky festival went off as planned Jan. 17-21 in Riviera Maya in Mexico, near Canc\u00fan, despite pressure from some fans who wanted the band or Cloud 9 Adventures, the promoter, to cancel over concerns about hosting an event of that size during the uptick in cases. Ticketholders who chose not to attend didn\u2019t get their money back. On the bright side, the festival seems not to have resulted in a COVID outbreak, likely due at least in part to the fact that it was held outdoors and guests were required to provide proof of a negative COVID test upon arrival and departure regardless of vaccination status. In both cases, a lot of people ended up disappointed \u2014 in bands, in promoters, in ticketing policies or with the general sense that fellow music fans are either overreacting to COVID or not taking it seriously enough. Either way, musicians have wound up in the crossfire as they try to make a living. \u201cI will never, ever, ever, ever give Cloud 9 another penny, and it will be hard for me to give Wilco another penny,\u201d says Anna van Tonder, a Wilco fan from Seattle who attended the pre-pandemic incarnation of Sky Blue Sky in 2020 and loved it. This time, she and her husband bought tickets last May, after getting vaccinated and before the Delta variant took hold. They spent close to $5,000 on an all-inclusive package at the Hard Rock Hotel resort in Riviera Maya, only to stay home and take the financial hit when Omicron infection numbers soared in the weeks leading up to the festival. One of the most frustrating things about trying to see live music, especially destination festival-style events, amid ever-fluctuating COVID numbers is the uncertainty: Is it safe? Will they cancel? Can I get my money back? Who is in charge? The answers depend a lot on context.\u00a0 With Sky Blue Sky, van Tonder and other ticketholders who had second thoughts about attending were frustrated by what felt like a lack of clarity over who was responsible for what. Because the festival bears Wilco\u2019s name, some fans initially assumed the band had final say about whether to cancel. Wilco singer Jeff Tweedy addressed fans\u2019 dismay earlier in January on Instagram Live, saying that he understood \u201call of the anxiety and anger and confusion.\u201d Despite the Wilco branding, he said, the band is \u201ca contracted entity for this event,\u201d and didn\u2019t have a say in whether the show would happen. In other words, it\u2019s Cloud 9\u2019s festival, and they hired Wilco to play. Any decision to postpone or cancel Sky Blue Sky, or issue refunds, would have been up to Cloud 9.\u00a0 \u201cThe general legal question is, does Wilco have any right, ability or liability in connection with the ticket buyers?\u201d says Elliot Resnik, chair of entertainment at the New York law firm of Masur Griffitts Avidor. \u201cAnd if they\u2019re just a contracted act to a promoter to perform a show at a specific time in a specific place for a specific duration, they\u2019re really not going to have any say.\u201d Wilco\u2019s arrangement with Cloud 9 is not unique. Other acts whose names are on upcoming destination festivals between now and March are also essentially hired hands. Cloud 9 has events with Widespread Panic, the Avett Brothers and Brandi Carlile at Riviera Maya. A different promoter, CID Presents, has pending festivals with Luke Bryan, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, Phish, My Morning Jacket and Hootie & the Blowfish, spread between Riviera Maya and another resort near Canc\u00fan. So far, as the Omicron surge seems to be nearing its peak in the U.S., those events are continuing as planned. (Wilco has another destination festival, Solid Sound, scheduled to take place in May in Western Massachusetts, but the band owns that event and is responsible for ticketing and other arrangements.) Though none of the acts set to perform at the Mexico festivals can unilaterally scuttle them, Resnik says there are alternatives in some cases. The headline bands, he claims, have enough pull that they could negotiate with the promoters for a postponement or to refund some portion of the ticket price if holding the event seems too risky. Once financial matters become part of the equation, though, things get complicated. Cloud 9 didn\u2019t respond to a request for comment, but the company wrote in an email to customers earlier this month that \u201ceconomic realities restrict us from offering full refunds.\u201d They didn\u2019t specify what those realities were, but Cloud 9 certainly wasn\u2019t locked in to proceeding with Sky Blue Sky, or any of the other upcoming festivals. If the company had wanted to cancel any of the events on its calendar, it could have negotiated with the venue, bands or other vendors to reduce the cost. \u201c[Cloud 9\u2019s] got lawyers,\u201d one music executive says. \u201cThese are experienced people who have done this shit before, and they obviously have good legal advice. I\u2019d be amazed if there wasn\u2019t a way to figure out a compromise scenario where people wouldn\u2019t have had to eat everything.\u201d Bands that don\u2019t perform don\u2019t get paid, of course, whether they\u2019re the headliners or support acts without as much clout. The decision to cancel doesn\u2019t just affect those with top billing; it also impacts dozens, even hundreds of people behind the scenes \u2014 smaller bands, stagehands, roadies, audio technicians, vendors \u2014 all of whom are less likely to be able to afford missing another paycheck. Almost two years into a pandemic that has shrunk touring opportunities for musicians, and therefore income for all the people whose livelihoods depend on them, no one is eager to walk away from a sizable payday \u2014 and festival gigs tend to offer bands considerably more money than they\u2019d make anywhere else, the music executive says.\u00a0 \u201cI think two years of radically reduced income put people in a position where they\u2019re rolling the dice on some shit that they probably wouldn\u2019t have,\u201d the executive says. \u201cYou can only reduce salaries and do all that stuff for so long.\u201d Though more tours seem to be on track so far in 2022, not every band is ready to get back onstage while Omicron is rampant. Adele last week posted a tearful video putting her Las Vegas residency on hold. The Fugees called off a string of dates to mark the 25th anniversary of their 1996 album The Score, while the Toronto punk-rockers Fucked Up pushed back their January tour dates until July. When concerts are happening as planned, though, ticketholders generally don\u2019t have much recourse if they change their minds about going, unless they\u2019ve spent extra money on cancel-for-any-reason trip insurance, says Leah Kunkel, an entertainment lawyer in Northampton, Mass.\u00a0 \u201cFrom the consumer point of view, buyer beware,\u201d Kunkel says. \u201cIf you\u2019re going to buy into something like that, you need to find out what their COVID policy is. And while you\u2019re at it, what if there is an act of God, like the transportation couldn\u2019t happen because there was a two-day storm on the East Coast, or all the flights are canceled because everyone has COVID?\u201d Anna van Tonder has learned the buyer-beware lesson all too well when it comes to destination festivals. \u201cThis is probably the nail in the coffin for me,\u201d she says. \u201cI mean, $5,000 \u2014 I work for my money. That\u2019s not just like a whatever amount of money to toss away.\u201d More Like This How to Avoid Being a Jerk at a Concert, According to Industry Professionals 20 Years Later, Wilco\u2019s \u201cYankee Hotel Foxtrot\u201d Is More Than Its Backstory Billie Eilish, Wilco and More Design Custom Yeti Coolers to Benefit Road Crews This article was featured in the InsideHook newsletter. Sign up now. The post Who Is Ultimately Responsible for Canceling Concerts Due to COVID? appeared first on InsideHook.