Dana A.

Director of Marketing & Communications, Tessitura Network

Physically distanced, musically connected


3 min

So many audiences are eager to return to live events, and so many arts and culture venues are eager to welcome them back.

In addition to the artistic and programming considerations, the biggest question right now is probably about safety. What’s the best way to present an in-person experience that’s safe for audiences and front-of-house staff?

The ZACH Theatre in Austin, Texas has shown great creativity and resourcefulness in designing the front-of-house experience for their outdoor concert series.

A woman wearing a mask standing next to a sign listing four safety protocols, including mask requirements, physical distancing, and washing & sanitizing hands frequently.

Pod seating

The ZACH repurposed their expansive plaza as their concert venue. Since the plaza is an open expanse, it doesn’t have built-in features like seats or aisles — but it does provide an open-air blank slate with numerous possibilities.

Audiences are seated in “pods” positioned at least six feet away from one another. Pods are small seating areas, holding two to six people each, indicated by markers on the ground. Pricing varies vary based on pod size, proximity to the stage, and other amenities.

Screenshot showing different colored dots representing 'pods' of seating. A pop-up modal reads: 'Available ticket types: 2 person max, $103'

Screenshot from the online purchase path for ZACH’s select-your-own concert seating

For example, the BYO Chair section allows guests to decide how many seats they need within the capacity of their pod. This seating area offers a more affordable option that also reduces contact.

Premium seating sections come with chairs, so that guests don’t have to carry their own. For maximum comfort, ‘cabanas’ provide cushioned chairs and shade — an important feature in Texas weather. Audiences purchasing a VIP six-seat cabana will find their pre-purchased drinks waiting for them, on ice, when they arrive 45 minutes prior to showtime.

Staggered entry and exit

In the past, timed admission was considered something to be used for a high-demand exhibit at a museum or attraction. Now, it’s proving to be an invaluable way to manage capacity and traffic flow for every kind of ticketed experience — including the performing arts.

Each ticket for the ZACH’s outdoor concert series has a designated entry time to help load the venue safely and avoid crowding at entry points. It’s a great touch that the premium seating has the earliest arrival time, with pre-purchased drinks waiting as an incentive to arrive at the designated time.

At the end of each concert, patrons are released section by section, based on their assigned arrival times, to avoid clustering at the exits. These staggered entry and exit procedures help ensure physical distancing even at the time of highest traffic flow.


Physically distanced seating can take many forms. The ZACH’s “pod seating” approach (also called “bubble seating”) is one. Indoor venues have a less flexible floor plan to work with. If you’re still figuring out the best approach for your organization, this article by ticketing veteran Meaghan Metke can help you get started.

And seating is just one element. It’s critical to maintain control over the flow of visitors into and out of your venue. Timed admission and staggered exit times can help you accomplish that. In addition, larger venues might consider printing the door or gate on the ticket near the entry time. That can streamline the paths people take through your venue, which reduces both congestion and confusion.

Your own venue and audience base might have its own advantages and challenges. You know it best — so talk to your staff and listen to your patrons as you make your plans. And, as with any new venture, try an approach, evaluate it, and adjust as needed.

Need help?

Check out our guide to getting started with safe seating. And we’re always here for you— just let us know.

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