The coronavirus pandemic has brought the live music scene to a screeching halt.
Peoria-based Jay Goldberg Events and the affiliated Canopy Club in Champaign have joined the National Independent Venue Association, or NIVA, which purports to attempt to “preserve the ecosystem of live music venues and touring artists." This national consortium of smaller to mid-sized promoters and venues has retained a lobbying firm to secure federal funding due to counter the loss of all live misic performances due to nationwide shutdown orders.
Company President Ian Goldberg says he was thrilled with how the state of live music was unfolding in 2020, before the pandemic forced most of the country into an extended shutdown.
‘It went from what looked like it could be a banner year to probably what will be one of the most difficult years of our life,” said Goldberg, who said the company has since moved its four-day Summer Camp Music Festival at Three Sisters Park in Chillichothe from late May to late August in hopes crowds will be allowed to attend music events by then.
Music promotion can be a vicious business as local and regional promoters have traditionally staked out territories and leaned on bands and venues to work with them, which can make it difficult for new promoters to enter the promotions arena. But by joining NIVA, promoters like Jay Goldberg are now collaborating with formerly rival promoters and venues in ways likely not to have happened before the pandemic.
Goldberg acknowledged the fierce territorial batttles, but added that his company wants to be part of the central Illinois community.
“We want to be presenting these shows so we can support the whole local community, and not have people coming in from all different areas and taking the money and running,” said Goldberg, alluding to multi-national promotional behemoths Live Nation and AEG.
“Live Nation started the gambit of solving that problem by going in and just buying the local promoters in all the major markets,” said Goldberg. “And then, gaining enough market power, they were able to squeeze us promoters in the smaller markets. That has gotten us to the point where especially during this crisis, we all realized that to a certain extent we need to band together and settle on trade policies we feel will support our ability to continue to perform in the marketplace,” explained Goldberg of joining NIVA.
As an example, he said Jay Goldberg events at one time handled most of the live music shows in the Peoria Civic Center. He said now, his company might get dibs on two or three out of every 20 shows. The rest he said are promoted and produced by Live Nation.
Musicians have been diligent about performing from home via social media to keep their faces and music in front of fans, perhaps even creating new fans. Many post virtual tip jars along with those performances hoping to recoup at least some of the lost revenue from canceled gigs during the pandemic.
Goldberg said venues and promoters are still trying to figure out how to create new revenue streams.
“Some of the solo artists are able to do more live streams from home, but when it comes to bands such as Umphrey's McGee where they live in different parts of the country and are at home isolating, it’s more difficult to do that type of thing, but we’re certainly looking at avenues,” said Goldberg.
That’s where NIVA comes into play, allowing former rivals to share ideas.
“We’re certainly very interested in figuring out how we can be generating any revenue. But you hit on another point. I know people think there’s a ton of money in being a successful band. But there are bands that would be considered very successful that are playing larger 2,000 to 5,000 capacity rooms, but there are really on razor thin profit margins once they pay their whole crews and pay for all the production they take out. They’re making a decent living, but it’s not like they’ll be able to keep those people on salary for a year of no touring,” said Goldberg, who added that may lead to a loss of some artists who can’t keep it together during this time.
Many music lovers would argue the music is essential as it feeds to soul during this especially difficult time. But is it an essential business?
“I certainly think so,” said Goldberg.
“I see that in times of crisis people turn to art and music in particular for entertainment, and there is certainly an element of the social voice to it. It’s really scary and hard to imagine what this will look like once this does settle down but hoping we can find a way back to normalcy.”