An Open Letter on Saving Our Stages and Staying Safe

The Artist Rights Alliance strongly supports the #SaveOurStagesAct and #RestartAct. Music venues and all of the people who make live music happen should not be forced to choose between safety and making a living. They need help now. Go to Save Our Stages to help. The following open letter more fully expresses our views on these critical needs:

Live performance is the beating heart of music and one of the most powerful ways artists communicate, connect, and inspire. It’s also a vital lynchpin of the music economy for working songwriters and performers outside the relative few that receive high-volume streams and airplay. The loss of live performances has been devastating for everyone who works in music or looks to it for strength, support, and joy.

We have watched the recent debate about reopening live venues with interest and concern. We recognize the terrible economic cost of keeping these venues closed — which goes far beyond artists, venue staff, and touring crew and deeply impacts small businesses, tourism, food services, hospitality, and all the supporting enterprises that make gigs possible and serve the audiences they draw.

But despite the painful toll closure of live venues has taken on our industry and our society, we strongly disagree with premature calls to reopen them simply because it hurts so much to keep them dark. This kind of wishful thinking will result in the unnecessary loss of life.

The power of live performance comes from its intimacy, connection, and physicality — even in a stadium or arena show, energy comes from being part of the crowd, and recreating this in a meaningful way under the requirements of social distancing demands an extraordinary amount of thought, care, resources, and creativity. And beyond the risks to fans and audiences, live tours are complex, sprawling operations involving sustained travel, an enormous amount of person to person contact, and unavoidable use of shared equipment, holding rooms, and performance spaces. The risks to crew, support teams, hospitality staff, and ultimately performers, family, and friends are perilous.

We believe all forms of reopening must be cautious, rigorous, and above-all science-based. Financial support for schools and shuttered businesses must be available until they can safely resume operations. And given the high-energy, close-quarters nature of most gigs, we believe it is inevitable that in-person concerts will be one of the last things to return.

In these circumstances, the only path forward is aggressive federal and local action, starting with the House-passed HEROES Act that would offer a lifeline to state and local governments and the economy overall. That effort must then be supplemented by focused support for the arts, including concerts, venues, and the supporting infrastructure they require. The federal Restart Act is vital, but even more robust sustaining aid will be needed — including subsistence payments to venue and touring crews as well as performers that have been forced to shut down their livelihoods for the greater good.

To be clear, many, many Americans who do not work in music also need this help and should receive it. Indeed, doing so is a necessary part of any orderly science-based reopening of the economy in which no one is forced prematurely back to work in ways that only generate new outbreaks and further prolong a safe restart for everyone. But even with such policies, live music will almost certainly be one of the last things to return. Venue staff, road crews, and musicians are likely to need this assistance for a significant length of time.

We urge Congress and state and local leaders to act now to #SaveOurStages.

Artist-run, non-profit advocating for musicians, performers, & songwriters in the digital landscape. (Formerly the Content Creators Coalition or “c3”)

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