In March of this year, COVID-19 hit. The novel Coronavirus spread quickly throughout the world and into our communities. Life immediately changed for virtually everyone as we tried to contain the virus, closing ‘non-essential businesses’ as a result. The industries most hit by the closures happened to be service, retail, travel and, you guessed it, entertainment.
Everyone’s lives have been affected by COVID-19.
The way governments have taken on the virus has differed worldwide and the results of those efforts are being seen now, five months later. With countries like New Zealand and Taiwan resuming full-scale concerts, Americans are beginning to wonder — when will our own entertainment industry be back in business?
When people think of the entertainment industry, they often think of actors with stars in the Walk of Fame or bands at sold-out arenas — maybe even those fancy shows in Las Vegas! Many people do not consider everyone else in the background who are making things happen. For example: the mom-and-pop caterers that are brought in when the band comes to town or the roadies who move the gear or the stage techs, the production teams, the photographers, the videographers, the makeup artists, the festival employees, all making up the very fabric of your experience. There are the acrobats, the sound engineers, the designers and so many more!
According to a recent report from the Federal Labor Department, there were almost 2.5 million people employed in the United States as entertainment workers. Some of these people receive W-2s, but most are independent contractors. Since COVID hit, there has been limited financial resources for independent contractors, or ‘gig workers’, who happen to make most of their money in the late spring to early autumn months.
Yet, there is hope for entertainment workers! The #SaveOurStages Act is brought to us by NIVA (National Independent Venue Association) — an entity comprised of over 2,000 (and growing) venues — pleading to government officials for funding to keep private venues alive. It has been said: the entertainment industry was the first order of shutdown and will, unfortunately, be the last to open. Out of the thousands of NIVA venue owners, 90% project they will be permanently shutdown after six months of consistent closure, that is, if they do not receive additional assistance from the United States government.
What NIVA is asking from our representatives:
- Provide long term assistance for shuttered businesses through the RESTART ACT (S: 3814) and the SAVE OUR STAGES ACT (S: 4258)
- Tax credit relief for venues for this season
- To continue Unemployment insurance benefits for entertainment workers
According to NIVA’s website, the Restart Act is simply defined as a “new loan program, providing funding for six months of payroll, benefits, fixed operating expenses, PPE, accounts payable and other ordinary and necessary business expenses, with loan amounts of either 45% of gross revenue from 2019 or $12 million (whichever is less). It features partial loan forgiveness, based on losses in revenue, a seven-year loan term and no principal payments for the first two years. The bill also extends the covered period for loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from eight weeks to 16 weeks.”
The Save Our Stages Act differs in that it is a “new $10 billion grant program for live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives, providing grants of either 45% of gross revenue from 2019 or $12 million (whichever is less), as well as supplemental grants of up to half the original grant, if the entity is still experiencing 80%+ revenue loss as of December 1st, 2020. These grants can be used for payroll and benefits, rent, utilities, mortgage interest payments, interest payments, insurance, personal protective equipment (PPE), existing loans, payments to 1099 employees and other ordinary and necessary business expenses.”
On August 18th, Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer announced that he would be co-sponsoring the Save Our Stages Act and the Restart Act, in support of entertainment workers living and working in the United States. Among those to speak at the announcement was LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, who spoke on the importance of keeping independent music venues afloat during these trying times. “These places have to survive,” Murphy states. “It is like saying, ‘well, we can do without these’… that is like saying you could survive without your liver or a right arm; we need them very much.”
Murphy really put words to how the entertainment industry is feeling — like the rug was pulled from under our feet. Senator Chuck Schumer showed his support and was heard at the press conference: “I will do everything I can to get this [S: 3814 and S: 4258] done, ’cause it’s so effin’ important.”
Now that is a dude that really gets it. Join the fight to Save Our Stages and keep the industry alive by signing the petitions below. And, don’t forget to support your local musicians in this time of need!
Sign the petition:
- #SaveOurStages Act
- NIVA’s full letter to Congressional leadership
- List of NIVA artists supporting #SaveOurStages