News

Chicago’s Music Venues Need Your Help

How’s everyone doing? In case you forgot…we’re approaching five months into a global pandemic. Although there have certainly been signs of improvement worldwide, there have also been signs that things are getting worse—and no matter what anyone says, nobody is really prepared for what’s to come or what to expect. It doesn’t help that our current administration in the White House is essentially avoiding any responsibility for this catastrophe and continue to turn a blind eye on the country’s most at-risk poulations (I digress).

Speaking just to Illinois’ response to COVID-19, we are one of the few states that have taken serious precaution with reopening, and did not reach Phase Four out of the Five Phases until June 26. We will not reach Phase Five until there is a vaccine or “highly effective treatment” available. Just last week, ABC News reported that the state may have to enforce new measures if our positivity rate reaches or increases above 8%. As of August 11, Chicago’s rate sits at 4.9%.

While many businesses in Chicago like restaurants, bars, retail, and more have been able to re-open with new safety measures being enforced, unfortunately, Chicago’s independent music venues are not able to meet those requirements. Shows with limited capacity could be interesting in theory, but are shows with 20% capacity even close to be sustainable for venues, their staff, artists and their staff, promotion companies, etc? The list of those in the industry affected by this virus is daunting.

Just a couple months into quarantine, many Chicago music venues were setting up GoFundMe accounts with hopes that fans would be able to donate what they could to pay for employee’s wages while the venues remained closed. A handful of these venues, like Schubas Tavern and Bottom Lounge fortunately have dining space in, outside (and even on top) of their spaces, but this is a formality that the majority of the venues do not have the luxury to have.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, a handful of these venues that are apart of the CIVL (Chicago Independent Venue League) organization have been forced to cancel over 1,200 events from just March 15 to April 30 alone…resulting in a loss of over $7 miilion. Over $3 million in wages paid to to workers was also lost during that time period. With a number that large showcasing what was lost in around 45 days, the real scare is to consider how much has been lost from mid-March to mid-August.

CIVL has partnered with NIVA—the National Independent Venue Association—with hopes to lobby government officials to help save music venues across the country. NIVA’s #SaveOurStages campaign has gotten support from over 1,300 independent venues as well as major US labels, Spotify, Amazon Music, and YouTube, who all signed a letter issued by NIVA to support the RESTART Act, which “broadly focuses on businesses with high overhead and no revenue during the pandemic, a category that definitely includes venues,” according to this article in Rolling Stone.

Major US politicians like former democratic candidate for president Amy Klobuchar and Senator John Cornyn introduced the “Save Our Stages” bill at the end of July, which followed the introduction of the RESTART Act. The bill, specifically aimed at music venues specifically, proposes funding to keep these businesses afloat for the next six months.

The bill would “ensure that relief funds only go to small, independent venue operators, promoters and talent reps. The grant amounts would be the lesser of either 45% of a business’ operation costs from 2019 or $12 million. Those that receive grants would be able to use the money to cover costs incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as pay for rent, utilities, mortgages, personal protective equipment, maintenance, administrative costs, taxes, and expenses that would allow venues to meet local and federal social distancing guidelines.”

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So you are probably (well, hopefully) wondering what you can do to help these music venues that may not have the chance to re-open if there is not any help from the federal gonvernment. First off, you can fill out this form to encourage your state legislators to help #SaveOurStages, as well as supporting the bills above.

  • Donate to CIVL! You can even buy a special kind of beer through Goose Island, with 100% of proceeds going to CIVL directly.
  • CIVL’s website also has a ton of information about the city’s independent music scene, and how our politicians are making decisions that may negatively impact the community. Get informed! What else do we have to do with all of our free time right now?
  • Donate to NIVA, whose work continues to benefit independent music venues and promoters alike.
  • Donate to local music venues. An entire list of venues affected throughout the country are available to check out here.
  • Purchase NIVA merch to show your support in style.
  • Some businesses, like Lincoln Hall, have been putting on virtual shows in their empty venues (remember when Chicago Haze covered Beach Bunny’s performance last month?) You can buy tickets to events like this to help the venues stay afloat.
  • We all want to get back to major events, right? Be mindful of how you’re handling this pandemic! It’s certaintly not easy, but please try to remember that your actions also affect other people. Keep social interactions to a minimum and outdoors when possible, always wear a mask, and be patient with frontline workers (always, but even more now). We are all struggling, and in order for our city to get through this as unscathed as possible, we have to think of others in our community before we think of ourselves.
  • And of course, WEAR A MASK.
Chicago’s music venues have, without a doubt, helped shape my love and passion for live music and influence my ability to run a music website. I have met countless individuals in our wonderful city’s music scene whose dedication has inspired me to keep creating, keep sharing, keep singing. It breaks my heart knowing that so many hardworking, talented, thoughtful people in this industry are hurting right now. As music fans and as good citizens of this city, it’s imperative that we do all that we can right now to help these businesses get to a point where they can re-open their doors post-pandemic. Although it may feel like the end of this pandemic is never going to be in sight, it is inevitable. We have to do all that we can to make sure we all make it there.

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