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Neumos In Seattle, In a Pandemic: We Don’t Know What’s Happening With Remaining Venue Grants

As co-owner of Seattle’s popular independent venue Neumos in Capitol Hill, Steven Severin has been a staple in the Seattle music industry for more than 20 years. Roughly 10 years ago, he helped create the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association to bring together the area’s live event insiders, and for the past 16 years has helped run Neumos with its sister club Barboza and the accompanying Runaway bar.

As part of Billboard‘s efforts to best cover the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on the music industry, we have been speaking with Severin regularly to chronicle his experience throughout the crisis. (See the full series here.)

Have you been following the Astroworld news? 

I haven’t looked at any of the videos. I am not watching any of the videos. I’m trying not to dive in because it’s not going to do me any good. I don’t need any more kind of trauma like that in my life.  

I heard people speculating that there wasn’t enough security, but even if there was 10x the amount of security — if the crowd wants to turn on you, you’re toast. When you have an artist like that who really pushes people to go nuts, I don’t know what you can really do. It’s all so sad and so messed up. It seems like there is a lot of blame to go around.  

Have you gone out to a show yet?

I got to go see Band of Horses at Paramount [Theater]. That was my first show back. It was amazing. They were so good. It was so cathartic. A couple of the band members used to work for me at Neumos before they were a band. Then their second show ever was at Neumos and they got signed to SubPop [Records]. So, I have seen them many times in many cities and promoted a ton of their shows. I’m a huge fan. I love their music. For that to be my first show back is awesome. My back did pretty well. I was able stand up after sitting for an hour and 45 minutes and walk out of there, which was a pretty big win for me. Now I want to go see everything.  

I wanted to see Idles at Showbox too, but I couldn’t go because I couldn’t stand. My feed was filled with people talking about how it was an amazing show. But I’m like, “Alright. What’s next?” This is what I’ve done with my life and it hasn’t been a part of it since March 2020. That’s not okay.  

What has been going on in your world?

Getting the word out about [management platform] Venue Pilot is pretty time-consuming. It is a company that’s been around for 10 years, but really it’s just starting. This is the first big push to get people to know about it. It’s interesting because the venue management platform is totally free but getting people to give you the time to help them fix a problem that they don’t know they have or don’t believe they have is very difficult. There are all these things this dashboard can do to help venues and make their lives so much easier, but it takes time to meet with us and talk with us and learn the features. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve been getting these calls for a long time and I get it.  

We’re getting a great response and getting a lot of people who are signing up for the ticketing and the venue management portion. We are still donating all the proceeds for this year back to the venues, but it’s a lot of work just getting it out there.  

Have you received your supplemental grant for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant yet?

We got it! Well, we got approved last week. I was on a call with NIVA and they were saying 15% still hadn’t gotten their supplemental grants. I know a lot of people who haven’t gotten it – 15% doesn’t seem right. I was about to bring it up and then I got a text that we got it. But half the people on the call hadn’t gotten it.  

Including supplemental grants, less than $13 billion of the $16 billion has been awarded. Do you know what’s going to happen to the rest of the funds? 

No. We’re trying to keep it in a trust or something. A lot of us aren’t back to normal shows. We lose shows all the time still. People still get COVID and cancel. People still aren’t coming to shows in a normal way that they were. If that money goes back to the government, we may have to ask again. Hopefully we don’t but we don’t know what’s going on with COVID yet. This is all still happening. It’s not totally done yet, even though it seems like it should be.  

They aren’t going to give us another grant. So, if that money goes back, it’s gone unless something super tragic happens. We don’t want to give those funds up. Who knows what they will do with it. It would be great if they used it for other parts of the music industry that didn’t get help, but we don’t have a reason to believe that’s what’s going to happen. Making [SVOG] happen was hard-fought.