In the beginning stages of the worldwide pandemic, the government began categorizing what they deemed “essential” to our way of life. Essential workers meant things we certainly can’t live without in our time of need. Access to medical care, child care, government-run agencies, restaurants, and hair studios made the cut. Music venues were the ones left out in the cold, struggling to survive. It’s nothing new. When school districts look to make budget cuts, arts and music are seen as the weakest link. In a time of need, music can have healing properties for the human soul. One of the biggest media tools in the world and we take it for granted. While we all struggled during this period, many music venues were hit hard. Many historic landmarks in many communities shut down for good while others looked to the government for answers. With rumors of another lockdown happening down the line, can local music venues survive another lockdown?
The $15 billion Save Our Stages Act was included in the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill during Trump’s administration. The SOS provided relief for independent music venues that couldn’t support themselves when touring was gone. While the bill helped uplift the businesses of some communities, many others weren’t so lucky. Many businesses to major loans and dipped into their own personal savings to ensure they live to fight another day. For the lucky ones who had bars and restaurants attached to their place, delivery was a lifesaver. It makes matters worst, the promise of help in PPP loans did next to nothing. The impact of COVID-19 effects has been seen in all aspects of the music community. Over the summer, live music and festivals began their comeback in a major way.
Since June, we have seen live shows returning to some of the most iconic landmarks in American music culture. After a year locked inside, crowds came out in support of their favorite venues in an effort to return to some sort of normalcy. But with so much business comes the overflow of people in small places. A little over 50.5% of Americans have received the COVID-19 vaccine, leaving room for the virus to grow. With the rules and guidelines of the CDC in question, many are left wondering how to move forward during this time. In order to save face, many local venues are now giving artists performing the option to require vaccines or masks when arriving for the show. Venues are closely monitoring the mutation of COVID-19 while managing the flow of many artists trying to get back on stage.
In the larger sense, music festivals are getting tons of backlash for their role in super-spreading. Two music festivals, Oregon’s Pendleton Whisky Music Fest and Michigan’s Faster Horses Festival have been linked to major outbreaks in those states. Pictures went around on Twitter from Chicago’s Lollapalooza, which showed major crowds mainly without masks. Some states are taking major action to decrease the likelihood of another shutdown. New York became the first state to require vaccination cards or masks to enter many places. As the summer winds down and the fall/winter season (flu season) creeps up, many are watching how the rest of the festivals handle similar situations.