As Americans continue to practice social distancing in the face of COVID-19, the live music industry is currently on hold with many performers and concert goers struggling to adjust.
With live music paused due to crowd size restrictions and advocacy for public health, many venues are finding themselves in a precarious position. Because of this struggle from many independent local and regional venues, the industry is pleading with the federal government to pass the Save our Stages Act and imploring live music fans to speak out.
“Independent venues were among the very first [businesses] to close during the pandemic and will be among the last to reopen — so we have to make sure they get federal funding,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in a press conference.
Introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the Save our Stages Act would provide $10 billion in grant funding to independent live music venues. This bill would also provide additional funding from the Small Business Administration for grants that amount to either 45% of operation costs from 2019 or $12 million. While this legislation will not be passed on its own, proponents of the bill are hoping for it to be passed as part of the RESTART Act or a future stimulus proposal.
“This legislation would help ensure that small entertainment venues can continue to operate and serve our communities for generations to come,” Klobuchar said in a news release.
Should Congress be unable to agree on a stimulus bill that provides aid to the entertainment industry, revenue losses are projected to amount to as much as $8.9 billion, according to a Pollstar report. Without aid, nearly 90% of independent venues will permanently close, according to the National Independent Venue Association.
“Write your senators and ask them to support this bill — it’s critical, or this whole industry is going to go away without it,” said James Murphy of the band LCD Soundsystem during Schumer’s press conference.
Along with saving smaller venues from closing, Olivia Jones, the former KJHK-SUA Live Music Coordinator, believes this bill needs to be passed to save these venues from a potential monopoly in the industry. Jones said many of these smaller venues are in a much different position than the larger music corporations because they are unable to rely on help with ticket sales from event promoter Live Nation.
Despite the current struggles of the live music industry, Jones said there were always issues within the music industry but that the pandemic increased those ten-fold.
“It’s not just a $15 ticket; you’re going to be going to dinner, getting drinks, getting merch at the show,” Jones says. “It’s probably 50 bucks that could be spent elsewhere, which has been one of the biggest issues the entertainment industry has had to battle for forever. It’s probably just been expedited through the pandemic.”
Along with combating the issue of consumer costs for entertainment, the industry faces a challenge with technological advances, Jones says. During the pandemic, streaming platforms accelerated their programming, and music artists found new ways to connect with listeners through livestreams.
Whether it be Verzuz rap battles featuring Nelly, Brandy and many others or Minecraft concerts from Charli XCX and 100 Gecs, virtual performances are increasing in popularity. That said, Jones believes these virtual events are only serving as a temporary stopgap for the struggling industry.
“Socially distant shows — to me — are much more temporary,” Jones says. “I actually don’t think they’ve been as successful as some people would’ve liked.”
Because such a large portion of concertgoers attend for the experience, Jones believes the success of the live music industry depends on the execution of these experiences, and she does not see that with virtual concerts.
Similarly to Jones, Brett Gilgus of the Lawrence band Not All There said that the group is struggling to connect with fans on the same level the band previously had.
“Before COVID-19, we were able to perform at Jazzhaus and the Bull,” Gilgus says. “Now we’re connecting with people on social media, and that’s literally it.”
Not All There and other bands across the nation are feeling the struggles of virtual performing, and many are ready to get back on the stage.
However, as COVID-19 continues to linger, bands and their fans are at risk of losing their favorite venues and are turning to government funding for assistance. As stimulus bill negotiations continue on Capitol Hill, small venue owners will plead their cases to include Save our Stages in the deal.