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COVID-19's Affect on Live Music Venues

By The Biz Team (Jules)

Since the pandemic hit, independent music venues have been fighting to stay afloat. No bands are gracing their stages, which means no fans are paying to get in and buy drinks and merch. With so many venues sitting empty and not bringing in any revenue, it's hard to imagine how they will survive the pandemic. The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) has introduced the #SaveOurStagesAct, which would provide legislation that would offer financial assistance to theaters and music venues, in order to keep them from closing for good. It has garnered support from names like Robert Plant, Billie Eilish, and Lady Gaga. I mean, with a combined net worth of $335,000,000, the three of them could just buy independent music venues outright, and save us the trouble of trying to push through legislation. But I digress.

Venues like Bowery Electric in Manhattan, have made creative attempts to bring in some cash flow, and help musicians who are itching to play. The club recently started hosting bands on their stage, and filming performances. Fans can buy tickets and watch the show online. However, people are getting tired of looking at their screens, and as any music fan will tell you, it's no match for the energy of a live show.

A recurring theme in the world of doing business during the pandemic, is thinking outside the box. Currently, music venue owners are continuing to pay rent for spaces they will be unable to use, for an unspecified amount of time. What if, instead of spending that money on rent, they let go of their music venues? I know...harsh. But hear me out. Even when restrictions on indoor gatherings are lifted, there is no guarantee people will flock to indoor spaces like before. So what about investing the money being spent on rent, in portable outdoor tours? Think about it. With all of the money independent music venues are spending on rent and overhead, they could spend it instead on a small stage, a small sound system, and host small tours.

Small, outdoor, portable stages can be as simple or as elaborate as the venue chooses.

The formula would go something like this:

  • A variety of open, outdoor spaces are selected for a tour (parking lots, open fields, etc.). This means that bands will be chasing warm weather during winter months, and playing in towns with cold weather during the spring and summer.

  • A portable stage is erected at each location. Easy set up, easy break down.

  • Chairs and tables are set up according to social distancing guidelines (think Dave Chapelle's 8:46 performance).

  • Guests can BYOB or drinks could be provided, depending on budget and local ordinances.

  • Depending on the draw of the band, they may stay in a town for days at a time, in order to accommodate as many fans as possible. Hotel/motel costs would vary according to how much income the bands generate (and how high maintenance they are).

This would bring in revenue for the hosting venue, money for the band, and a great live performance for all. Everyone wins.

The key to surviving this pandemic from a business standpoint, is to keep looking ahead. Don't get caught expecting things to return to the way they were. Instead of looking back, and trying to hold onto what once was, this is the time to get creative and work with what is available. People don't want to watch music on their screens anymore, they want to experience it live. So instead of saving our stages, why not reimagine them instead?

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