As the pandemic rages on into the winter months with ever-rising case numbers, the outlook appears bleak for live music industry professionals nationwide. Independent venues will be some of the hardest-hit businesses by the coronavirus pandemic as the first to close and likely the last to reopen. Although the future is ripe with uncertainty, a new charitable campaign has surfaced with a clear mission: Keep Music Live.
Keep Music Live is a COVID-19 relief fund for small, independently-owned venues across Washington. The campaign is bred from the earlier initiative Washington Nightlife Music Association (WANMA). Spearheaded at the beginning of the pandemic fallout earlier this year, WANMA quickly mobilized to push for state and federal financial assistance for independently-owned venues. Emergency grants were awarded to music and arts venues throughout King County in August, but those one-time funds are starting to dry up.
Live music losses amount to much more than a missed fun night out
Keep Music Live (KML) calls on the public to keep flooring the gas pedal. Their $10 million goal may feel like a stretch, but it’s nothing compared to the economic and cultural losses of vanished live music. Washington’s live music ecosystem contributed a staggering $2.42 billion to the state’s economy in 2019, also powers vibrant neighborhoods and tourism. The KML premise is abundantly clear: if we lose music venues, we lose it all.
Like venues across the nation, Trinity Nightclub owner Anthony F. experienced difficulty accepting the reality of the pandemic on his business.
“At first, it didn’t seem real. I don’t think the reality of it set in until a few weeks. I went back to the club and it was just barren. One of the back rooms was a bar in the early 1940’s. I think this has probably been the longest stretch of time without anyone there. Whether dancing, drinking, or just having a fun night, it’s empty now. It was like the walls knew nobody had been there, and it just felt wrong.”
Washington’s music industry aligns with key national initiatives
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Washington has set an example for small business crisis relief. Their strategy is clear: Fight for support from all angles. Coalitions and associations like WANMA and the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) call on legislators to push emergency financial measures. Venue live stream fundraisers also increase public visibility, but return on investment can be a bit of a mixed bag. The costs to fledge a full-production stream and technology nuances can be tricky to navigate. Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for small businesses have kept clubs like Trinity afloat, but require careful spending to be forgiven next year.
Grassroots campaigns like Keep Music Live accomplish both emergency funding and widespread public recognition. This can in turn encourage federal and state legislature. What’s more: Since they’re fiscally backed by Whatcom Community Foundation, donations are fully tax deductible. KML responds to one of the largest economic fallouts by strategically planning for the long-term survival of our venues.
The time is now to support live music, before it disappears
So what does it mean if we lose venues in the next year or two? Experts in the industry believe they won’t come back, as the buildings will be sold and land repurposed. If we get to that point, we may not be able to revive it.
Aside from the livelihoods of live music employees, also consider the impact of concerts on you. Trinity owner Anthony explained the loss well:
“I know music is a huge part of my life, but to take it away in a live form is more impactful than we realized. I didn’t appreciate everything it meant to me as much as I thought. During Keep Music Live meetings, sometimes artists pop on our zoom calls to sing or play a song. I just tear up every time. We take things for granted.”
It’s clear: we’re all in it together
Although Keep Music Live will provide grants for smaller-capacity venues, it hasn’t stopped bigger venue owners from stepping in. You’d be pressed to find another industry with so much dedication to helping each other. There’s understanding that personal agendas aside, our communities thrive when all local businesses succeed.
Now, it’s up to us. Recall some favorite memories of your favorite concert experience, and let’s get to work. You can find out more information about the Keep Music Live campaign and donate here. If donating isn’t accessible to you, check out their site for other ways to support their message. We have the tools to save Washington live music venues, and now it’s time to act.
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