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Live Sound Turns to Congress for Help

The summer months are usually the busiest of the year for the live sound industry. While September typically sees the industry start to ease into a slightly less hectic fall season, the autumn of 2020 finds live sound professionals facing the exact same thing they did during the summer: Nothing. The events production industries need help, and getting the attention of those in a position to do something about it has not been easy, though hope is on the horizon.

 

The mission of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) is to preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent live music venues and promoters throughout the United States. According to NIVA, “This is our final push to Congress and there won’t be another opportunity. We NEED the #SaveOurStagesAct and the #RestartAct passed in order to keep independent venues nationwide from closing permanently. Please help us #SaveOurStages now.” NIVA

Washington, D.C.—The summer months are usually the busiest of the year for the live sound industry, as companies field sound systems for events, festivals, concerts and tours of all sizes around the globe. While September typically sees the industry start to ease into a slightly less hectic fall season, the autumn of 2020 finds live sound professionals facing the exact same thing they did during the summer: Nothing.

Live sound specialists and their colleagues from other areas of the production landscape usually are working at the top of their game when they’re unnoticed by the public, but they now face the downside of that paradigm: the events production industries need help, and getting the attention of those in a position to do something about it has not been easy, though hope is on the horizon.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) adjourned the Senate on Aug. 13, leaving numerous pieces of pending legislation and deadlocked coronavirus stimulus deal negotiations to wait until the Senate reconvenes Sept. 8. Among the proposed legislation are two acts that would bring some relief to the live sound industry: the Save Our Stages Act and RESTART Act.

The Save Our Stages Act, co-authored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), would allocate $10 billion to provide six months of economic relief to independent venues. Issued in the form of grants, money would be disbursed to qualifying smaller venues, promoters, producers and talent representatives, and could be used, according to Klobuchar’s office, toward “rent, utilities, mortgage payments, PPE, contractor payments, maintenance, administrative costs, taxes, operating leases, and capital expenditures related to meeting state, local, or federal social distancing guidelines.”

An industry poll by the 2,600-member National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) found that 90 percent of independent venues are likely to shutter in the next six months if they don’t receive some form of federal assistance, so while it does not aid audio professionals directly, if passed, the Save Our Stages Act could keep venues going until they can reopen in a meaningful fashion, ensuring sound professionals have an industry to work in on the other side of the pandemic. The bill has gained the co-sponsorship of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and 28 bipartisan co-sponsors in the Senate.

Studios Vie for CARES Relief with Mixed Results, by Steve Harvey, June 2, 2020

Meanwhile, the RESTART (Reviving the Economy Sustainably Towards a Recovery in Twenty-twenty) Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), is a proposed successor to the PPP program, aiming to provide long-term relief to small businesses that had a greater than 25 percent drop in their total income compared to the period before the coronavirus pandemic. RESTART’s relief would come in the form of partially forgivable loans, to be used for expenses such as payroll, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, PPE and payments to independent contractors. For loan amounts that were not forgiven, principal payments would be deferred for up to four years, while publicly traded companies would be required to repay the loan amount in full.

Grassroots organization #WeMakeEvents will literally highlight the event production industry in an effort to raise its visibility in the public discourse. As a form of putting pressure on Congress to pass the RESTART Act, it aims to “raise public awareness that the live events industry is on red alert for its very survival” by lighting buildings, structures and residences across the United States in red from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Sept. 1. (This is a rescheduled date, as the original date of Aug. 27 coincided with a national political convention.)

According to #WeMakeEvents North America director Brad Nelms, “the group has managed to gather incredible support for this important movement, signing on more than 30 regional directors to lead the initiative in markets nationally. This team has been so fired up and already has commitments from hundreds of incredible venues and iconic locations nationally that will show support.”

 

The North American edition comes on the heels of the UK’s #WeMakeEvents Red Alert Day of Action, which saw more than 700 buildings lit red across the UK on Aug. 11. The event was supported by PLASA as well as pro-audio manufacturers like Calrec, which lit up its historic Nutclough Mill building, and Martin Audio, which helped organize a full TV production and livestream of the activities in London, in addition to lighting its own headquarters and two nearby Wycombe venues in red.

Related:
We Make Events day of action brings UK biz together in fight for government support, by Daniel Gumble, Installation International, Aug. 12, 2020
114,000 jobs at risk in events industry, says We Make Events, by Daniel Gumble, Installation International, Aug. 7, 2020

#WeMakeEvents estimates that 96 percent of the events industry—upwards of 12 million people—are currently unemployed, furloughed or have lost anywhere up to 90 percent of their income. All of these statistics underline the fact that novelties like drive-in concerts and one-off socially distanced concerts are not enough to sustain any portion of the events and concert industry, placing all the more importance on getting legislation passed that will provide some relief to the industry. As is the case supporting any proposed legislation, contacting one’s senators and representatives in Washington, D.C., is a simple but crucial way to make one’s voice heard and help a given viewpoint gain traction.

U.S. House of Representatives • www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

U.S. Senate • www.senate.gov/general/contacting.htm

Save Our Stages • www.saveourstages.com

#WeMakeEvents North America • www.facebook.com/RedAlertRESTART

National Independent Venue Association • www.nivassoc.org

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