One of the most impressive feats of music political organizing last year came from the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), which formed last year to provide a voice for many non-Live Nation/AEG venues. They along with a little help from one of Washington DC’s largest law firms, Akin Gump, successfully passed the Save Our Stages Act passed within the most recent batch of Covid relief funding. The bill offers $15 billion in grants for music venues, museums, and film production companies to weather the pandemic downturn. Interviews with elected officials acknowledge
that this is a stopgap measure and that more will be needed if music touring remains unavailable until 2022. Pollstar ran a piece
that pointed out the fact that there are still many operations and venues that aren’t covered by the bill. Still, even if the program’s effectiveness will be tested over this long winter, there’s a bit more certainty within this space than last spring.
Even with these measures, there is still a sense of dread setting in for many venue owners and artists alike. Complex
reported that, especially in the American South, there are indeed concert venues still operating
with a limited capacity. The artists interviewed in the piece expressed a need to keep making money and even saw this as an opportunity to be on stage at a time when most artists are not. I don’t agree with the decision to perform and tour during a pandemic, but for many parts of the live music industry that aren’t connected to large multinationals or within the very scope of venues within the National Independent Venue Association’s bill, the impulse is somewhat understandable.
A recent study funded by Primavera Sound
, a Spanish music festival, concluded that indoor concerts are safe, assuming that a set of conditions (that are practically impossible to sustainably recreate) are in place. Much of the anxiety around live music is filtered through the perspective of either small business owners (i.e. venue owners) or musicians that are big enough that taking the chance to perform during a pandemic is monetarily worth it despite the risks. Even in the UK, where this newest coronavirus variant is causing much alarm around the world, we see UK Music, which represents a number of UK unions and music organizations, theorizing about a summer return
. This seemingly contradictory vision is one shared across the world where the music industry’s various interests are heard unequally. The concerted voice of classical performers is heeded with government cash, middle-class catering venues are propped up, and yet the thousands of independent contractors and oft-forgotten live music workers are entirely ignored.
The Business Techno
Twitter account, which highlights DJs who continue to perform despite the pandemic’s persistent global spread. Some run to the defense of musicians who are facing a lack of work available to them and inadequate government support. However, as Jean-Hugues Kabuiku mentioned in an essay (What the Dance Music Industry Can Learn From Italian Operaismo?
) for Dweller
, what does it mean to DJ during a pandemic when it involves gathering people within communities that have been hardest hit by the virus? The prolonged closure of a fully-functioning live music industry still allows for more time to consider these questions around who benefits from these shows, who governments are choosing to support, and what kind of future is in store for live music in 2022 and beyond.