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Thursday, August 6, 2020

Coronavirus Update 8-6-2020: Congress must pass the Save Our Stages Act #saveourstages


Today I'm taking a brief detour from the employment-law implications of COVID-19 to discuss an issue near and dear to my heart—the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on independent music venues. I am urging you to contact your Representative and Senators to implore them to pass the Save Our Stages Act. 

I love live music. I love discovering new bands in a small, sweaty club. I love bonding with my daughter at a concert. I love seeing my favorites with my body pressed up against the stage while strangers slam into me. I love not being able to fall asleep from the adrenaline rush of a just-finished concert. I love the unhealthy sore throat and ringing in my ears the morning after. 

Live music is not just a passion for me and so many others. It's also the lifeblood of myriad communities. It not only supports the venues themselves and their employees, but also touring and local artists, the restaurants and other neighborhood establishments that surround the venues, and hotels and other tourism-related businesses such a taxis and rideshares. Currently, live music is at a standstill. The independent venues that keep music flowing through communities are dark and are generating no revenue for themselves or others. If they do not obtain relief, it is estimated that as many as 90 percent won't survive the pandemic and will permanently close.

This loss would prove catastrophic for the clubs, their communities, the musicians, and us fans. As explained in this letter to Congress, signed by over 700 artists, from the famous who have long out-paced the size of these venues (like Ozzy Osbourne and Robert Plant), to the up and coming (like Soccer Mommy and Lucy Dacus) who need these clubs for their livelihoods, to the long past their relevance or never relevant in the first place (like Pat Boone and The Amazing Kreskin):

Independent venues are asking for an investment to secure their future, not a handout. One Chicago report found that every dollar small venues generate in ticket sales results in $12 of economic activity. If these independent venues close forever, cities and towns across America will not only lose their cultural and entertainment hearts, but they will lose the engine that would otherwise be a driver of economic renewal for all the businesses that surround them.

The Save Our Stages Act would create $10 billion in stimulus grants targeted specifically for independent venue operators, promoters, and producers to pay for expenses that have backlogged during the coronavirus shutdown, including rent, utilities, mortgage payments, taxes and payroll.

As explained by Senator Amy Klobuchar, one of the bill's bipartisan co-sponsors:

[With music venues], it’s not like some of the businesses can be half-open. It’s either open or closed for the most part. You could envision a day where maybe they can do social distancing, but it’s really hard in mosh pits to do that. (I know that from my daughter. I can’t say I’ve been in a lot of mosh pits myself.) It makes it unique because of the fact that, while the PPP grants were welcome, those venues are in a unique situation where that wasn’t as much help as it was for other businesses. They’ve always operated on a thin margin. There is an estimated $9 billion in losses expected should ticket sales not resume until 2021. And so we really tried to focus this on the independent, smaller venues. It’s an extension of PPP — kind of like the airlines was — to get at a particularly hard-hit industry that the PPP isn’t going to work for.

This legislation has broad bipartisan support, and yet it's inexplicably stalled on the floors of both the House and the Senate. Perhaps Congress does not view live music venues as a priority in a country turned completely upside by a pandemic and with no end in sight. Yet, $10 billion is a drop in the budget bucket, and would mean so much to these venues, the communities they serve, and the fans they service.

I very much look forward to the day when I can again have my body pressed up against the stage at the Beachland Ballroom or stand inches from the band on stage at the Grog Shop. But I won't be able to if those clubs no longer exist. I love live music. I just hope that live music has a place to go after COVID is a memory.

Today, I urge you to support the National Independent Venue Association and the Save Our Stages Act. 

Please visit saveourstages.com to tell your legislators to support this bill. They need to hear how important this issue is to so many of their constituents. Time is running out to enact this important legislation into law to save our stages. 

* Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash