"It's been kind of a long time coming behind closed doors," Margin Walker Presents owner and founder Graham Williams tells Billboard. "We've been watching it happen over time and we've really adjusted and re-strategized so many times, and then nine months now with no shows and no income, we just finally said, 'Okay, we know it's far enough off that we can't keep doing it.'"
Williams explains that Margin Walker lost steam after shows and tours continued to be booked, rebooked and then canceled all together. While he calls the team at Margin Walkers passionate, he says it was unrealistic for them to keep going until shows return either late next year or in 2022. Willams says the company dug themselves into debt assuming they would be back to doing shows in the summer of 2020, but the financial hole eventually became too big to recover from.
"Even if you're an optimistic person, you have to be realistic too and recognize where there's challenges and right now there's just too big a gap between what we do for a living being doable and where we are right now," says Williams, who also predicts that the shows could be light in attendance when they do return due to a lack of income for many concertgoers.
Larger promoters may follow in Margin Walker's footsteps in the coming months even with a vaccine in circulation, Williams predicts. He adds that smaller promoters without venues, offices or a lot of overhead are most likely to weather the storm.
Despite the difficulties facing the live sector right now and in the near future, Williams says he isn't going away permanently. "I've just done it for so long. It's what I know. I honestly don't know if I could get a job anywhere else," he says.
The live music industry's focus right now should be on saving independent music venues, Williams says. Texas has already lost 14 music venues since the pandemic started, and the ones that remain are holding out for significant financial relief from the Save Our Stages Act that is currently working its way through Congress. That bill would establish a $10 billion grant program for live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives.
"I am most concerned about the venues," Williams says. "I'm shocked how many have made it this far, and without major government help. While there is some stuff around the corner that's hopeful, even then it's... a daunting task to imagine."
Williams says that continued widespread closures of music venues will be devastating for everyone in the live music ecosystem, from venue owners to indie promoters who will have fewer rooms to fill. As someone who plans to re-enter the live game in the coming years, he says, "My fingers are crossed."
For fans who have purchased tickets through Margin Walker Presents, the promoter asks that they contact Eventbrite at eventbrite.com/support. For additional info on a specific show, they can email the venue directly.