Prior to 2020, the live events industry was massive. It seemed like there were shows and concerts daily. When COVID-19 hit, that all changed. What was once a thriving industry is now dark.
Currently, most businesses remain closed, and the ones who have reopened have endured significant operating restrictions. Most industries have a lot less cash to work with, and many companies have closed for good.
For us, it all happened around March. Our calendar was full of big events for the year, and like a switch, it all went away almost instantly. Those events going away caused a huge ripple effect through people’s lives.
The life of a Stagehand
When you start to think an industry completely going away, it’s hard to imagine just how many people are affected by it.
Stagehands make up a large portion of our industry. You can think of a stagehand as a goalie – A majority of the time, it’s thankless, difficult work that goes unnoticed if executed correctly. But stagehands are the first to take the blame when things go wrong.
Stagehands often take part in setting up the stage, lights, and sound, connecting the artist’s equipment with the venue’s electronic set up. It’s neither simple nor easy. And if the government or the industry doesn’t provide financial help soon, crew chiefs will be tasked with hiring and training all new crews who have less familiarity with the equipment, and less experience, which could lead to huge safety risks and hurt an industry trying to recover.
The fans have spoken
Live event fans have made their opinions known and voiced their concern on social media. Their opinions aren’t always the same, but one thing is clear…they want concerts and live events to stick around.
But while these fans have the safety of their homes and many have other jobs to return to, stage crews will likely be the last group of people to restart their employment. We were the first to be shut down and we’ll be the last to go back to work.
Who are those people backstage?
It’s easy to see that putting on a live event is a team effort, but most people don’t understand the role of a stage crew. Then you have the confusion of bands who tour with their own road crew, which is different than a stage crew.
Road crews are usually a team of technicians who travel with a band or group and take care of the performer’s equipment. Stage crews are the liaison between the artist’s gear and the venue’s speaker system, lighting, and sound mixers. For a successful show, both teams must work together.
Most venues will also typically bring in crews to build the “set” for the performance. That crew is responsible for building the stage, raising the speakers, and putting up truss and lighting gear at very extreme heights.
Out of work
Stagehands, stage crews, road crews, riggers, and the like are all now in the same predicament – trying to find work. Many of the people in our industry have worked live events their entire adult life and a change of career isn’t really an option.
Workers from our industry have been relying on the help of tax dollars and crowd funding to survive this pandemic, and as mentioned above, we’ll be the last industry to come back, so the future is uncertain for many.
While the American government sent out a $1,200 check to adult citizens two months ago, a statistically low number of people live in areas where this covers more than one month of rent. An additional $600 sporadically made its way to certain qualifying individuals, but this has not alleviated the struggle, especially considering that most stage hands live in major cities where rent and medical bills can swiftly pile up.
When will live events start back up?
Ask any two experts this question and you’ll get two different answers. While Dr. Anthony Fauci, a reputable infectious disease specialist, has repeatedly warned that the US should stay seated until we have a vaccine. Others propose middle ground: a plan to reopen. Either way, the day that hundreds of people can stand close together in the same room is undetermined.
What we DO know is that there isn’t a set date when live events will return.
A glimmer of hope and a huge call to action
Even if live events started back up tomorrow, many people and venues fell behind on their bills months ago.
For this reason, several groups have proposed petitions for government intervention and assistance. A UK protest, themed “Red Alert,” saw many venues shine red lights outside as stage techs walked through the streets with equipment cases, according to a report by The BBC. The uproar has walked hand in hand with organizations like NIVA, or National Independent Venue Association to lobby for bills like The Save Our Stages Act, a bill which proposes $10 Billion Dollars in funding venues and stage crews during the financial burden of the COVID-19 outbreak. New York Senator Charles Schumer co-sponsored the bill.
The people who make live events happen are important to the economy at large. Without them, we would have no live events. And without live events, our economy sees less stimulation as live shows directly impact their surrounding environments negatively. That means nightclubs, bars, and restaurants see a big decline in sales, and anything else located near a live event venue.
What can be done?
This is where you come in….we come in….everyone comes in to make our voices heard. This is a red alert level call to action – #RedAlertRESTART if you will.
Today, September 1st, the live entertainment and events community is lighting buildings across North America red, signaling the distress the industry is in due to COVID-19.
The goal of the RED ALERT is to raise public awareness and to demand the US government help by passing relief legislation for small businesses, in the form of the RESTART and by supporting our millions of unemployed workers with extended and expanded PUA and FPUC.
#WeMakeEvents is an international movement for visibility for the Live Events Industry during the COVID-19 global pandemic. The UK had a large, successful RED ALERT on August 11th. This event on September 1st is led by their North American sector, which is focused on the passage of the RESTART Act. (What is RESTART? Check our page here.)
ExtendPUA.org has supplemented their messaging with the individual side of the legislative ask to provide a more whole version of the needs of the industry. Top down with RESTART, for small to medium sized businesses, and roots up with extended and expanded PUA and FPUC, for individuals.
The $600/week extension must go hand in hand with any small business relief of this nature. Michael Strickland, one of the primary advocates of RESTART, agrees, “Without people, we have no industry. Enhanced Unemployment Insurance is just as important as the RESTART Act.”
Simple steps YOU can take to help
- Light your building/venue/house RED tonight (September 1st) from 9 pm-midnight and share videos/photos on social media with these hashtags: #WeMakeEvents #RedAlertRESTART #ExtendPUA
- Help raise awareness my telling your friends and family to do the same and spreading it on social media.
- Make your voice heard by asking your reps to support the Restart Act and take action to Extend PUA