Music blasting through speakers, feeling the bass pump through your body, standing shoulder to shoulder with fans, screaming lyrics in unison. These are all things that most people haven’t experienced since the COVID-19 virus hit in March. Live music has always been an essential part of the music industry. When asked, California music fans said that they miss mostly everything about live music, from “Being around people you don’t know but have something in common with” to “seeing people’s outfits” at the show.
The shutdown of venues throughout the world in March led to huge changes in the music industry. Worldwide concert revenue fell by 64% and even further in the United States. While the staples center and other large arenas have been able to open with socially distant sports, smaller venues have been suffering during the shutdown.
Without fans coming through their doors and no plans to open for at least 18 months, independent venues lost around 95% of their yearly revenue. The Observatory, an iconic venue in Orange County, has been closed for over a year now and it is eerily quiet compared to its usual bustling environment. The Observatory and other small venues are an essential part of local music scenes. They are often steeped in history and the community around them.
In response to the restrictions placed on these small businesses, Save Our Stages was born. This organization, which is connected to the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) strives to support small venue owners in these unprecedented times. They have helped set up the NIVA Emergency Relief Fund that has garnered over $1 million to help venues keep the doors open until they are able to bring in fans once again. They also encourage music lovers in the United States to email their legislators to make sure the music community is supported in COVID relief bills.
Originally, venue owners were given funds that according to NIVA Committee Member Adam Hartke were “not sufficient” to keep the staff that most owners consider “family” from being laid off or furloughed. The outcry from Save Our Stages and NIVA led to the House of Representatives passing the HEROES Act. The Act will distribute $10 billion in funds to indie concert venues around the country.
For music lovers around the world, missing live music has been disappointing as tours were rescheduled or cancelled all together. However, hope comes in the form of Australia! As the country has slowly lifted all of their social distancing and mask restrictions, events have started to come back. In March 2021, Tame Impala performed for a packed audience in Perth. Clubs have opened with bands playing and arenas are expected to be filled by this summer.
As Orange County enters the COVID-19 orange tier the Observatory and other concert spaces have started to lay out the new guidelines that will be in place as guests start to come back. With the vaccinations in place and COVID-19 infection rates falling across the globe, it is only a matter of time until we’re all back to screaming the lyrics to our favorite songs, live and in person.