An open letter to people who attend live concerts, festivals, shows, and events:
Greetings from one of your fellow people, who is employed behind the scenes in the live entertainment sector. I am writing to you today on behalf of myself, and hopefully for many of my co-workers who share my feelings.
I want to be clear that I am well aware that the entire world is feeling fear, confusion, loss, stress, and a mixture of other emotions. I write this to you today to inspire thought, appreciation, and understanding from our perspective on how this virus has affected us.
I want to start by telling you who we are. The people that make up the support system of the live entertainment world are a unique breed, with a unique job, and an overall unique lifestyle. We are the “behind the scenes” workers of concerts, festivals, tours, venues, corporate shows, and other live experiences. You have likely not seen many of our faces, but nonetheless you have unknowingly experienced our skills, talents, hard work, and interaction.
Our industry is a beautiful mixture of individuals of varying race, sex, religion, skin color, age, upbringing, height, weight, education level, sexual orientation, nationality, political beliefs, and health. Though very diverse, we have one unique common thread: we work hard. Very hard. Please understand that (minus a State or two that limit this) we do not work any semblance of a traditional schedule. Our days are typically long, dirty, tiresome, and somewhat underappreciated. Here is the kicker: most of us would not trade that for anything.
There are several employment situations that each of us might typically be in:
1) We are employed by a touring act or performer and may be on some sort of either daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly salary.
2) We are employed by a vendor (a company that provides equipment or services) or a production company and are on some form of hourly, weekly, salaried, etc. pay.
3) We work for a venue in which live events happen and might be on a per-show pay, hourly pay, or possibly even in a salaried position.
4) We are “freelancers” or self-employed and work on a variety of shows/events/projects throughout any given year. We work hard to keep our schedule full, often booked 3-6 months (or more) out to ensure that we have income rolling in.
Regardless of the employment situations listed above, a large portion of our work can be seasonal. Depending what sector of live entertainment that you are in, there inevitably are several months a year of “slow time”. This is cyclical and something that we have become accustomed to. Most of us have learned to plan for this and save our money throughout the year to weather those slow times. In general/broad terms – the “slow time” for a lot of us is November through January. Again, not for everyone, but for a good portion of those listed above.
Now that I have given you a bit of background as to who we are and what our financial lives might typically look like, let us talk about the purpose of this letter. Based on what I have listed above, many of us had just come through our “slow season” and might have gone through the cash reserves we had saved. February and March typically bring the start of a lot of tours, live events, festivals, and more. When COVID-19 hit the US this year, it hit at the start of our get-back-to-work period. Work that we had booked many months ago. Work we had counted on for the year. On March 12, 2020 our entire lives came to a screeching halt. I will go far as to say that we were the first industry/sector to face complete shutdown. I in no way want to blame an individual, company, or government for this – it is just something that happened. There are even many in my industry that might argue whether this shut down was justified, but regardless it just did.
This is a good time again to reiterate the purpose of this letter. I am not looking for sympathy. There is a whole world in pain right now. People have died, people are really sick, and at this point there are several key industries that have faced complete shut down. I write this to incite appreciation. We are not typical people with typical jobs, and as we were some of the first to feel the business and financial effects of this virus, I think it is important for you to understand what is on our minds.
There is a good chance that restaurants, hair salons, and other businesses may re-open in the matter of a few weeks (with limitations). We sadly do not have that hope at this time. Our fear as that as we were one of the first to shut down, that we may be one of the last ones to re-open. There is much debate about this topic among us right now. Some are optimistic that we will be doing shows again in July. Some people are saying it will be the Fall of 2021 at the earliest. None of really know at this point and trying to guess only confuses the issue even more – we all have thoughts, ideas, and opinions.
I also want to take this moment to address your safety as an attendee of a live event. We all take your (and our) safety very seriously. Over the past decade, great efforts have been made to ensure that we are all doing our jobs in the safest manor possible. Sure, accidents do happen, people do make mistakes and bad decisions, but as a whole we are trying hard to ensure a very safe event environment for all of us. Event safety used to mainly have to do with weather scenarios, operation of equipment, weapons/terrorism, and personal safety. It has now become more apparent that moving forward safety will also include microscopic hazards as well. We do not know at this point what the protocols, safety measures, and processes will be in the handling of this new safety scenario, but it will likely affect the speed at which our industry can get back to work.
So where do we go from here? That is a great question with an ever-evolving answer. There is just nothing simple and clear at this moment. We are doing our best to “hang in there” with the rest of the world. Many have received financial support from several amazing organizations within our industry. Many of us are staying in touch on video conferencing calls. Several amazing social media groups have formed: there is just one with live event people submitting picture of food/meals they have cooked, another is with a “virtual” festival that we all work at (and it is hilarious).
I would also like to point out that there have been several Artist, venues, vendors, and production companies who have done an outstanding job of taking care of people who might have fallen under the “employee” category as I listed earlier. Many of these companies are facing at least one financial quarter with zero profit, and they deserve a kudos for doing the best they can to take care of their employees. It may not be ideal (reduced pay, etc) but their efforts do not go un-noticed.
As I wrap this letter, you may be asking “what is the point” or “where is he going with this”. As I had stated previously, this letter is meant to hopefully bring some appreciation. There is a good bit of fear within our industry right now, and rightfully so. When the live entertainment sector comes back – and it will – and you walk into the venue for your first concert back - take a look around and notice the people. Not the other attendees, but the ones that are there working their tails off to ensure that you had a fun, safe, and entertaining experience. Appreciate them, acknowledge them, and know that they have likely come through one of the most financially and emotionally difficult times of their lives.
We appreciate you all purchasing tickets, merchandise, and food/beverage. It keeps us employed and doing what we love. We look forward to seeing you all again at the show (hopefully) very soon!