What’s in store for the event industry post-Covid-19?

read: 8 minutes
Opening party of The Duchess, Amsterdam, in 2017 (Photo: Denis Bouman)

Marcel Pantera, stalwart of the Dutch festival landscape and owner of entertainment industry concept and strategy agency, Treat, uses his substantial experience in event execution and attendee behaviour to speculate on how the events landscape will change when the world is once again able to gather, create and celebrate en masse. 

A nota bene from the author: Wherever I’ve written “he” you can of course also read “she”, “they” or “unicorn”.

Human beings are by nature social animals and have been looking for union and entertainment since the beginning of time. Having spent over thirty years in the event industry I know my way around both of these disciplines. As Mood Manager and Show Director I’m not afraid to call myself a specialist when it comes to what people want, how they behave and what they do in the time leading up to, during and after an event. My extensive experience as an autonomous out-of-the-box thinker is now more useful than ever in both disciplines because the entertainment industry has been hit hard – very hard. As an entrepreneur, it’s important to look at the future of events and hospitality.

What does the visitor want from us in the future?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Our systems have come to a screeching halt due to the global pandemic, and many of us find ourselves reflecting on what is truly important to us. Initially it’s the essentials: our family, our friends and whether or not we can put enough bread on the table in the near future. Secondly, we will think about what our world is going to look like after all of this is over. 

To substantiate my vision I use the theory of psychologist Abraham Maslow, despite the fact that critics doubt its relevance in our modern digital age. Maslow created his “Theory of Human Motivation” in 1943 to map out people’s psychological needs, arguing that every living being  pursues the same needs. Today, some of the primary basic needs are digital by nature, with the computer and smartphone at the top of the list, naturally followed by fast internet and Wi-Fi. Digital tools have become a basic need and social contact does not always have to be ‘live’ nowadays.

In this time of crisis, most of our focus is on level 1 and 2…

1. Physical needs (eating, drinking, breathing, clothing, shelter, exercise and sex)
2. Physical safety & economic independence (need for physical safety)
3. Social contact (to belong somewhere, togetherness, union, love)
4. Appreciation & recognition (self-image, reputation, self-esteem, self-respect)
5. Personal development (self-realisation, to do your calling, personal growth)

We are now forced to reconsider our habits and values, but one thing that never will change is the need to meet and keep in touch with each other (Maslow’s level 3).

But what will that moment look like when we get off this rollercoaster ride? And when is that? What happens when we can go outside again? Has the world changed? Have we changed? Will the experiences that we were not missing ever come back? How does the world look in the Post-Corona era?

We are beginning to see the start of a solution. Measures are being taken, and having effect. Governments have offered a helping hand to the population and we are not shying away from difficult decisions. I think that is a blessing and a wake-up call at the same time. Online there are many tools and programs to maintain contact, have meetings, share common projects, listen to music, play games and watch streamed content. And yet, we know this cannot be compared to the real deal. 

And that’s why we’re going to get back together, physically.

– After all, nothing compares to the unspoken language that only a face-to-face meeting will uncover –
Edison Pop awards at the Gashouder, Amsterdam, in 2017 (Photo: Denis Bouman)

Chances and opportunities

How will we bring people together soon? Where will their needs lie, and what can we give them? 

To answer this I will analyse the Post-Corona festival-goer. I see the following trend development in different types of visitors:

Target group analysis 28+

1) The Anxious one: I will stay at home for now.

2) The Cautious one: I want to do thorough research before I go, so I know exactly who is there and what is happening.

3) The Relevant one: I will go, but I want to know how this event relates to my environment and my loved ones.

4) The Participant: I’ll only go if I can be part of the experience.

5) The Fomo Feaster: I’m celebrating life and having fun.

There are currently about 1000 festivals in the Netherlands with 26.5 million visitors per year (figures 2018). Prior to COVID-19 the majority of these were Fomo Feasters (5), fewer were Participants (4) and fewer still were Relevants (3).

Will this last? Does this ‘coronavirus wake-up call’ affect the way we look at events? How does contemporary hedonism relate to the resulting awareness? Does the festival-goer suddenly get the jitters with so many people surrounding him? Is he now turning against unnecessary waste and energy consumption? Does he feel the need for ‘more intimate’ contact? Does he want more quality or quantity?

– To hug or not to hug, that is the question –
Opening party of The Duchess, Amsterdam, in 2017 (Photo: Denis Bouman)

An evening out Pre-Corona:

The music crescendos, the special-FX are working their magic, we look each other in the eye, sweating. In the break we fall into each other’s arms and when the confetti explodes we are jumping through the roof on the pumping beats. When the next record is mixed in I look at whom I am dancing with. “What’s your name…?” I ask.

Developments Post-Corona:

The mental impact

The mental impact this crisis has will have consequences for the way we connect with each other and that doesn’t only concern the dance floor at your favourite festival. As a Mood Manager I know that intimacy is crucial to let the energy rise above the dance floor. Do we really think things will go back to normal after this humanitarian crisis? That we’re going to embrace sweaty people that are screaming in our ear? The longer the crisis lasts and the more severe its consequences become, the fear of the unknown may mean people keep their distance for the time being.

New awareness

New awareness will ensure that the average festival visitor will think twice about how he will spend his free time, with whom and where. The size of the event, the distance between people or stages, knowing where the emergency exits are, letting loved ones know where you are, the hygiene of the bar, the toilet, etc. But the effect of the ecological footprint is also a question that is becoming increasingly more relevant (as we notice the environmental benefits of lockdown) and is perhaps even a reason not to go. Other questions the visitor might ask include, what are the risks with regard to my health, and will it contribute to my personal development?

In my opinion new awareness will ensure that the group in 5 (as an exponent of individualism; nice and carefree partying) will become considerably smaller. There is a lot of room for growth within groups 4 and 3, and even 2. These are the people who have an eye for the world around them, like to learn and adhere to the group feeling of ‘together we are strong’. In other words, as an industry we need to rethink the expectations of our visitors. With this we give substance to the 4th level of Maslow: Appreciation & Recognition.

New values are on the horizon.

As skin-hungry creatures, we long for intimacy, yet don’t really know how to be intimate anymore
Dance Valley, Amsterdam, in 2013 (Photo: Robert Bot)


Our need to blend in with the masses was huge, but from now on we will think twice before joining big crowds. My estimation is that up to September / October 2020 almost all major events will be cancelled. Do you see yourself in front of a stage with 15, 000 visitors? Or would you feel more comfortable in a tent that can only accommodate 1000 or even just a 100 people? Or do we skip the event for once? When 25% of the visitors skip once or even stop attending all together – because they are no longer comfortable with the status quo – this means that 250 large festivals could cease to exist.

But what will they do? Where will they go? How do you keep your returning visitors? People will obviously go out, but the question is if they’ll find something to their liking they might stay there. Surprise is the essence of going out, escaping from the weekly routine of home / work. If you have choices you want to have ‘new’ experiences.

New needs will ensure that – to get groups of 2, 3 and 4 in – we have to look at the size of events, the layout of the space and the program.

In the short term there is much more room to gain ground for the smaller events like clubs & music halls again. There are opportunities for new events with smaller stages. Large festivals that add nothing social to the current landscape and do not adapt are facing rough times. 

“On stage, I make love to 25,000 different people and then I go home alone.”
Janis Joplin


For organisations, show directors and programmers this means that they must give substance to content and offer room for participation. It will no longer be sufficient to simply tag a theme label on an event. There must be multiple and deeper layers of meaning that appeal to the imagination of the visitor. This will translate into how an event can contribute to your ‘being’.

For example, how does Nevada desert’s Burning Man relate to the Netherlands’ Dance Valley? Or how does the large main stage show from Tomorrowland relate to the Being-fields area at Booom festival, in Portugal. The sustainability of our colleagues from DGTL is getting close to approaching an ideal, but what will be their next step with regard to the program? Will there be more space for ‘the message’, whatever that may be?

And this is how we reach Maslov’s 5th level; Personal development.

Don’t just preach love, but teach love
Edison Pop awards at the Gashouder, Amsterdam, in 2017 (Photo: Denis Bouman)

The discussion is large and complex. We are still in the heat of the moment and there are still many questions unanswered (and unasked).

• How long does it take for the confidence to return?

• What does social distancing mean to B2C and B2B events?

• How do I experience an event?

• How do I greet people? What “state” do I want to be in? How will I deal with alcohol and drugs in this new situation? Do I want to dance or sit?

• This article is mainly about music festivals as ‘the leader’ of festival country, but what about art & theatre festivals or culinary events?

• Looking at the dance floor from the artist’s perspective: How will the light jockey deal with his special FX? What will the video guys come up with? And our DJs and musicians? Does the music go down in energy, or up?

• The financial resources for many will not be enough to travel far, or party a lot:

• Will this be the salvation for many smaller clubs?

• Are you going to events for free?

• Can I contribute in other ways than money?

• What can venues do to get through this time and how should they act later?

• How can you make money with smaller events?

• What does the event actually add to my existence / world or is the experience that I bring back different?

• What will be the new DNA of an existing, or new event?

• How do creators let the visitor participate?

My goal is to refine this vision in the coming weeks, completing it with fresh creative ideas and new progressive insights. But also to keep asking questions and trying to formulate answers and solutions to make sure we survive as an industry. Let it be the fire to reinvent ourselves, for the Post-Corona society.

We are in this together. Do you want to philosophise, brainstorm about the future or just spar? Let’s talk.


Article created by:
Marcel Pantera (Treat); Author, Guest Expertise, Mood Management & Strategy 
Maya Ramhit: Copy & Research

– Groove is in the heart –
Anniversary 12.5 years club NL, Amsterdam, in 2011  (Photo: Denis Bouman)

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