‘You can’t do live music to-go’: Music venues face extinction amid COVID-19

Coronavirus

(CNN Newsource) – Music artists emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic are facing a harsh reality as small venues face closing down for good.

James Murphy, the lead singer of the Grammy-winning band LCD Soundsystem, says he owes his career to the decades he’s spent perfecting his craft in small, independently run music venues.

“This is a kind of like natural ecosystem that can’t be built,” Murphy said. “It’s like a coral reef of venues. It’s like a natural national asset that if it goes away, it doesn’t come back.”

Murphy was scheduled to play at Knockdown Center in Queens, New York in April. That gig has been postponed indefinitely.

“It’s really rough – there is no timeline on when we could reopen,” Tyler Myers, Executive Director of Knockdown Center, said. “Our industry was the first to close and will be the last to reopen.”

Knockdown and nearly 3,000 other independent music venues banded together to form the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). The group, along with 600 artists from Lady Gaga to Billy Joel, is calling on Congress to take action.

“We’re about to lose all of the Carnegie Halls of independent, small music all at once,” Murphy said.

NIVA has endorsed the Save Our Stages Act, a bi-partisan bill that would provide a six-month grant to independent venues.

Closer to home, Josh Antenucci runs Center Stage in Atlanta. He says small venues are where large artists grow up.

Antenucci says he received a PPP loan that has helped him stay afloat until now. With live events indefinitely on hold, he has no other source of revenue.

“There is no sustainable pivot for music like ours. You can’t do live music to-go,” Antenucci said.

NIVA estimates that independent music venues generate hundreds of thousands of related jobs, and 90% of venues say without federal assistance, they won’t last six months.

“If we don’t have capital investors, if we don’t have a stock market supported business, how will we possibly continue to pay the bills?” Antenucci said.

In Des Moines, Iowa, Tobi Parks opened her music venue xBK just before the pandemic shut her down.

“It’s not just hurting us and our venues, it’s hurting all the small businesses,” Parks said. “It’s hurting the pizza place that’s next door to me, the coffee shop that’s next door to me, it’s hurting the community.”

Parks says it was a dream years in the making, but she’s now looking at closing her venue for good. She says as a minority-led business owner, the prospect is heartbreaking.

“That’s why I’m fighting so hard, particularly for people like me who are a black, queer woman,” Parks said. “It’s incredibly important to be able to maintain it and to continue on for the next generation of people to take my place.”

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