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Rafat Ali was a cub reporter when the music industry underwent a permanent shift from albums and physical products to singles and digital products. He later watched the newspaper industry get decimated by the internet, wondering why they hadn’t learned from the music industry. Now, he’s calling the next digital revolution. Aided by COVID-19 and the work-from-home revolution, Ali predicts that the lucrative event industry will suffer a number of painful changes as Zoom, and related virtual technologies, replace expensive, in-person meetings, conferences and exhibitions. 


The event industry probably saw its all-time peak in 2019.

Putting on a physical event costs money and requires expertise. Companies like RELX, Comexposium, Clarion and Informa have made a tidy profit for decades figuring out event logistics. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the event industry is seeing a sharp downturn as ticket sales, membership, sponsorship and other traditional revenue sources vanish. 

The world is adjusting to a new normal – one where virtual meetings and events play a far greater role. In light of the changes wrought by the pandemic, it may come as no surprise that the event industry has taken a financial hit; but it’s important to recognize that the slump is, likely, not temporary. The music and publishing industries provide relevant cautionary tales.

In the 1990s, the music industry...

About the Author

Rafat Ali is the founder of Skift, which offers news, data and other services to business travelers and the wider travel industry.

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