Facing what many of them are considering an existential crisis as efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 continue to disrupt the live entertainment industry, 75 independent venues and stakeholders put their heads together today on a call organized by Independent Venue Week.
The call opened with a U.K. event and activation organizer who had a several-week head-start in dealing with the escalating public concern about the spread of the disease. The call also touched on various legal ramifications of different situations, insurance questions, and governmental regulation.
“The primary aspect [we discussed] is how do these businesses continue to operate, in the very near future or in the long term after being affected by something like this,” Rev. Moose, of Marauder which organizes Independent Venue Week in the U.S, told Pollstar. “We’re trying to make sure the owners and operators of independent venues have the ability and information to be able to move forward. Without them in our communities, everybody is worse off. There will always be live music and there will always be places to congregate, but these independent rooms are the ones that best serve their local communities.”
Moose told Pollstar the stakes for many people on the call couldn’t be higher. “I think anybody in the entertainment sector who is not concerned right now, I think, is just kidding themselves. The entire ecosystem is dependent on artists being able to perform.
“If artists aren't able to pay their bills, they are probably not going to be able to afford the bare minimum of what is required to be a professional or semi-professional musician. And if the venues aren’t able to stay in business, who are you going to sell tickets to. I don’t think anyone expected something like this to happen at a global level.”
The call was meant to help industry workers like Steven Matrick, talent buyer for Lola in New York and is organizing the New Colossus Festival in New York City. The event – a takeover of eight NYC venues with independent artists from around the world – launched last night, March 11, as scheduled, and is continuing as planned, despite escalating limitations on public events in the city.
“We are a three-man team. We are processing the cancellations one at a time. We booked 110 bands to come, we have had about 15 cancel and we are spreading out the other 90 or so across the festival. They are stepping up and taking more shows.
“Tomorrow there is an ordinance that venues can only operate at half capacity. We will try to have venues prioritize badgeholders and people coming to see shows over their normal clientele so the bands can have audiences. That is Friday, we will see what happens on Saturday when Saturday comes.”
“What’s crazy is the bands all have two, three or four showcases. So one band cancellation is devastating. So 15 … we are filling 40-50 shows a day right now. We wake up, we fill em, we forward them to venues to update, and we go from there.”
New Colossus has had to cancel the March 13 show at Bowery Ballroom due to the prohibition of events with more than 500 capacity, reducing the number of venues associated with the festival to seven. Matrick said they will reschedule that show, which was to feature LIFE, Public Practice and A Place To Bury Strangers, to later in the year.