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From the smallest artists to the biggest executives in the music business, reality has set in. There will be, at best, small but innovative live music events at drive-ins and other open situations for the rest of this year. But forget about huge tours and the traditional way the music business has run not only this year, but possibly into the foreseeable future.
“This year’s gone,” said entertainment giant Irving Azoff in a recent Pollstar interview. I personally would be very happy to get people back on the road by next summer, and if they’re not on the road by next fall, that’s a disaster, obviously. It’s a disaster either way. I don’t think we’re looking at anything before next summer.” He added: “I see nothing to convince me that a return the summer of 2021 is good.”
Former head of music at WME, Marc Geiger, echoed Azoff’s pessimism in a recent podcast interview, and actually went further, saying festivals may not return until 2022.
Yes, there’s still music being made. Taylor Swift stunned the world by dropping an unexpected eighth album, forever, this week. It conveniently bumped one planned by Kanye West, who had planned to release his Donda: With Child on the same day, but pulled it back.
There’s still money being made as well. Wise Music Group recently renewed its worldwide publishing relationship with the Academy Award-winning Icelandic composer and cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir. The Voice coach and country artist Blake Shelton announced a drive-in tour. Travis Scott had a successful Fortnite appearance earlier this year, as did DJ Steve Aoki.
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But live music is, by far, the largest economic driver of the worldwide music business. The pandemic’s affect on businesses has already been felt in Los Angeles, as the fabled Satellite nightclub in Silver Lake is converting to a restaurant, and other venues are said to be teetering on enacting similar conversions.
The National Independent Venue Association claims that if concerts are not able to resume this year, 90 percent of venue owners, promoters and bookers report that they are in danger of closing.
On Wednesday of this week, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) came up with potential rescue plan, proposing what’s called the “Save Our Stages Act.”
It would establish a $10 billion Small Business Administration grant program for live venue operators, promoters, producers, and talent representatives, making grants equal to the lesser of either 45% of gross revenue from 2019, or $12 million.
That may not be enough to save all of the venues. But it may help some survive until 2021, 2022, or whenever the live music business can again thrive. Zoom concerts are nice, but if there are no clubs or concert halls, then are a large swath of people – including managers, bookers, promoters, club personnel, caterers, production crew, and not to mention musicians – will be left to find new careers in fields other than music, which will become a hobby for some, a fond memory for others.
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