Live music for a roaring homecoming | Music
Almost everyone has heard the 1971 Megahit “American Pie”, by Don McLean, who sings a line about “The Day Music Died”. Although this makes an oblique reference to a 1959 plane crash that killed rock legends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP Richardson, listeners unfamiliar with the backstory of this tragic chorus tend to hear a song about a sudden stop of all music, which is what happened during the pandemic at virtually every stage, large and small, across the world.
Fortunately for music lovers, that is about to change.
Theaters that have gone dark over the past year and a half and managed to make it in the spring of 2021 with enough money to stay in business are starting to reopen. And they find artists eager to come back on stage and audiences eager to enjoy live performances again. Professionals in the music industry predict that live performances will play an important role in boosting people’s morale as the world begins to see signs of the pandemic subside, just as jazz has done in the States- United after the First World War.
“No one in our industry thought of a global pandemic that would shut things down for a year and a half as they went about their daily business,” says Geoff Brent, owner of The Black Sheep, located on Platte Avenue in Colorado Springs. “But I think everyone is generally very optimistic now. People are absolutely ready to go out. I have the impression that everyone is turning their heads around a feeling of normal return. I think there is a great year ahead for us.
Brent reopened earlier this year with deejay events and social distancing movie nights to help maintain some income and keep his regulars comfortable coming back to his venue. Then he started to organize live performances with distant corporate offices. On May 8, he hosted the venue’s first live performance in over a year, featuring Letters From the Sun and The Amber Gene, which he said saw a high turnout.
“It was amazing,” he says. “The energy of the people there was just like, ‘Oh my god I’m so happy to be here now.’”
A dozen performers also came in for The Black Sheep’s open mic party on Monday, May 10, even after a late spring rain turned into snowfall. Some musicians commented to the crowd during their sets about the time elapsed since they had been on a stage as snow accumulated on their cars parked outside.
The lack of live music in 2020 and the first quarter of this year has taken its toll on the music industry, largely because musicians haven’t had the touring opportunities they typically rely on to support music. new albums they are creating, according to Marc Benning. , owner and talent buyer at Lulu’s Downstairs in Manitou Springs.
“We mainly work with touring groups, and this system is totally seized,” he says. “It has not yet opened because it depends so much on all the cities in the country. It’s not just about the sites in our city. These are New York, Nashville and Dallas. For these groups to tour the country together, it has to be viable in most places.
A study by Goldman Sachs estimated that the music industry had lost around 25% of its revenue globally by the end of last year, after live music stopped. The study estimates that live music revenues have fallen by 75%.
The closure of concert halls – which often employ sound operators and stage designers, as well as food and beverage professionals – also contributed significantly to the 17% unemployment rate reported by the Bureau last year. of Labor Statistics for the arts, entertainment and recreation category. in the USA
Daniel Eaton, who plays at Lulu’s in a band called Briffaut, said he was grateful to have a day job at Jimmy John’s to fall back on during the pandemic, but other musicians, who staked everything on their music, have suffered the most. “I feel like a lot of other people have been hit very hard because music is all their income,” he says. “But for me, I was still financially well, so I was able to focus only on creating.”
The Goldman Sachs study also found that while the live music industry has plummeted, streaming revenue on sites like Spotify and Bandcamp – where Eaton and many other smaller artists publish their work – has increased by around 18%. % as more and more people turned to music through their phones. , in their cars and on their computers. This is a problem for many artists, however, who in many cases earn half of their income from live performances.
Scott Wilson, partner of Sunshine Studios Live in Colorado Springs who also plays bass in rock band Saving Abel, says major sporting events that have been canceled or ceased as a result of the pandemic have also taken their toll on the music industry.
“The big advertising campaigns have also closed a bit,” he says. “Most of the big sporting events that were going to be televised didn’t take place, so a lot of the companies that were doing music placement for those events were completely shut down and shut down too, because no one was buying any. songs for these giants. events.”
Rising vaccination rates and loosening restrictions on businesses are showing some light at the end of the tunnel, however, and concert halls are mushrooming for a comeback in the second half of 2021. Goldman Sachs estimated last year that, despite the pandemic, the industry will double its value to the world by 2030.
When Colorado ended the state’s COVID-19 numbering framework in April, El Paso County chose not to add restrictions beyond what the state kept in place. According to the county’s website, non-seated outdoor events are unrestricted, while indoor events with between 100 and 500 attendees must maintain a social distance of 6 feet and comply with the standing order of masks. the state. Managers of indoor events of more than 500 people should submit a waiver request through El Paso County Public Health or Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
On May 13, the CDC also took another milestone signaling a shift in the pandemic and growing confidence in vaccine effectiveness, when it said people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 have no more to wear masks indoors or outdoors in most cases. .
As a result, show lines are starting to fill the calendars in many venues.
Benning, for example, hosted a smooth opening at Lulu’s over the weekend of May 8 and plans to open a smaller room and patio above his main room later this month.
“Then we’ll start doing smaller shows within guidelines of what the state still needs,” he says. “Then we’ll add to that as much as we feel safe, like we’re taking care of people. Hopefully we won’t back down, and we can just slowly but surely walk away and let the capabilities get a little bigger and let the confidence of the touring bands and this business come back so that we can start to draw people into the world. downstairs bedroom, which is the largest room. It will be a progressive plan for us. “
Liz Borris was promoted to new manager of Oskar Blues Grill & Brew on Tejon Street just before the pandemic hit the United States in March 2020. She said it was a long way to get to a location where the restaurant, bar and concert hall are located. could start reopening to the public – but even longer before they can safely bring back live entertainment that tends to draw large crowds.
“We just brought back our trivia night on Wednesday,” she said. “We’re having a comedy night on Sunday night, then the next week or two, Fridays and Saturdays, we’ll have live music in the basement and some evenings on stage. And then Saturday afternoon, weather permitting, we’ll probably do more of an acoustic installation upstairs on our patio and sort of open our breeze doors and let the whole restaurant enjoy that vibe.
Large concert halls are also starting to schedule events for late spring and summer.
“We’re going to have our grand opening on May 21,” said James Ragain, vice president of Weidner Field, the new Switchbacks FC headquarters and event venue. “We have been in communication with the directors of the state and local county health departments. Basically they told us that in May we could host over 50% but we’re going to stay at 50% at least until May. This will be for the Switchbacks games and for our concerts at the end of the month. “
The Switchbacks will face New Mexico United for the grand opening of the pitch, followed by the kickoff of a summer concert series, starting with STAR Festival on May 28, with a lineup of Latin music performers. A country music show is scheduled for the next day, performed by Justin Moore, Chris Janson and Mackenzie Porter.
“I believe wholeheartedly that live music and live entertainment is an essential activity because it is essential for human beings to be able to come together with other people and create memories and create special experiences,” says Ragain. “That’s really what life is about, and when you can’t offer these things, I think people come into a place where they’re not happy and there are things in their lives that aren’t where they are.” should be.
For musicians like Brent, the experience of performing live is what fuels his music. The punk band for which he plays bass, Cheap Perfume, thrives on the pleasure of interacting with an audience.
“I think there is a great year ahead for us,” he said. “I don’t know how long the high will last, but I think it will last for a while.”
Editor’s Note: Indy contributor Bryan Ostrow works for The Black Sheep, a location mentioned in this story.