Touring

For Giving Tuesday, Consider the Concert Industry (Guest Column)

ACM
Courtesy ACM

ACM

ACM's Lifting Lives COVID-19 fund helps those in the country music community, including the decimated touring industry.

Through its COVID-19 fund, Lifting Lives, the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Country Music, has already disbursed $1.5 million to country music industry workers whose livelihoods were decimated by the pandemic and plans to distribute another $2 million, much of it donated by digital service providers, Nashville labels and business leaders, by the end of year. ACM board member Scott Scovill, owner of concert video company MOO TV,  details how the pandemic has damaged his business and the touring industry in general and encourages people to support Lifting Lives on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1, as well as pushes Congress to pass the RESTART Act loan program.

This was supposed to be an incredible year for the live music business; one for the record books. Instead, COVID-19 has completely shut down our industry, and we can’t work. I think we all understand what the virus has done, how it affected everyone’s lives and how exhausted we are. We don’t need to rehash that, but we do desperately need some understanding.

There is a misconception that if you go to a concert, the 100 or so people that put that show on work for the artist. Actually only around 10 people work for the artist. The rest work for subcontractors that provide lighting, sound and other companies like mine that do video for concerts. Additionally, there are companies that provide every niche, including catering, pyro and trucking, not to mention the hundreds of people at an arena show who help park the cars, take the tickets, show you to your seat, sell you pizza or pour you that ice cold beer.

As you know, when these shows do not happen, these individuals are not getting paid. The reality is that when the industry shuts down, companies like mine and most others that bring you the show simply don’t have vast resources to survive. We at Moo TV have already spent our available cash and are operating at 20% of last year’s income.

Although we are scraping together every job we can find, it is still not enough to keep us from going wildly into debt. We are currently more than seven figures in debt, a ton of money for a small company like mine, and who knows when the end will be? The reality is that it has taken us to our knees, even a strong company like mine. We were not a weak company before COVID-19, we are great at what we do and we were succeeding. Less than a year later, through no fault of our own, we are right on the brink of closing, just like many of our colleagues. A few of my friends have already talked about shutting down their companies. One that is the same size as Moo TV informed their employees yesterday that they were closing.

We are the industry that always answers the call for others in need, giving our time and donating equipment to produce benefit concerts such as Live Aid, Farm Aid and thousands of other causes. Now we are the ones in need.

We are the people that bring to you experiences so great that you stand on your feet and scream with joy because you are just so happy. Now we are not able to do that.

In fact, instead of bringing that joy, this year looks a lot like me sitting down with yet another employee and telling him that I can no longer afford to keep him. These conversations are too frequent and sickening for me. It is dire, it is brutal, and it is not our fault.

The live entertainment industry desperately needs another round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)). That and the passing of The RESTART Act soon after could save live entertainment. We also need enhanced liability protection. These things have been sitting on Capitol Hill since they were first promised in July.

Furloughed workers need unemployment to continue past the 26-week maximum that has already crossed. It needs to be enhanced so they can get by until the industry returns.

The music industry is made up of hundreds and hundreds of little companies that are all dying. If they are all gone, who will put the shows on when we get out of this virus?

All I can ask is for your understanding and that you spread the word. Please contact your congressional leaders and pressure them to do the right thing and save the live entertainment industry.

 

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