There have been dire predictions regarding live music venues closing at an alarming rate as a result of the pandemic. Predictions run as high as 90% of venues will close by the time things return to normal, although many of the corporate-owned entities should survive thanks to the recent $15 government aid package. Almost overlooked is the fact that most of the live industry runs on independant contractors that aren’t eligible for big government aid. If you’re not aware, this is the real backbone of the industry – the road crews that actually keep it all purring smoothly in the background.
Sound and lighting technicians, guitar/keyboard/drum techs, truck drivers, tour accountants and road managers, caterers, and union workers at the venues are just some of the behind-the-scenes talent that have made good solid middle-class livings for doing their part in the live music music business, and they’re dying on the vine because it has stopped.
Many artists think of their crews as family and have done all they can to help them during this crisis, but even an artist with deep pockets is suffering after a year without the lucrative revenue that comes from being on tour. As a result, many crew members have blown through their savings and 401Ks in an effort just to survive, with the light at the end of the tunnel never seeming to get any closer.
Help For The Crew
In an effort to help those in need, an organization called Roadiecare, a non-profit founded by audio and production vet Sandy Espinoza, is providing assistance to that subset of the industry. Relief is provided through electronic gift cards or certificates to recipients that come through either the Roadiecare.com website or by referral.
Being on tour is not an easy business, and many of the old road dogs that have been doing it since almost the beginning of modern touring were longing to leave the road to the young ones coming up. The problem comes when you’re unprepared for a pre-mature retirement, as almost anyone who’s aged out of a job will tell you. Bills catch up to you fast and any savings are not nearly enough. It’s no less easier for someone younger trying to raise a family that’s used to a steady income that’s suddenly cut off. And it won’t be as easy as turning the touring spigot on after everyone’s vaccinated.
A Future Industry Problem
The venue landscape will undoubtedly look different when some normalcy returns to the business. Indie venues were already in trouble world-wide thanks to gentrification, increased insurance rates, and city zoning laws. Most smaller venues live month-to-month even during the best of times, so being closed for a year or more is a sure knock-out blow.
Most successful artists start out in small venues where they hone their live chops. Take those venues away and it’s possible that an entire generation of artists may suffer a stunted growth.
The same goes for the production crew. As the pandemic wears on, talented crew members are forced into non-industry jobs just to make ends meet. The institutional knowledge that goes with them will be tough to replace.
You can make a difference though. Help the crew members that are essential to bringing you the music that you love by giving generously to Roadiecares and at the Go Fund Me site Free Roadies Now. It’s a worthwhile investment in the future of music.