Pacific Northwest Music Venues are in Danger, But You Can Help

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Pacific Northwest Music Venues are in Danger, But You Can Help

The Clock-Out Lounge, just one of dozens of smaller, independent music venues under threat of permanent closure.

The COVID-19 pandemic has already dealt some traumatic blows to the world in general, and to the Pacific Northwest in particular.

Aside from the horrific human toll that the virus has wrought, it’s also leaving economic devastation in its wake. Most every strata of the Pacific Northwest has been adversely affected, and thousands of employees at myriad regional businesses have been (or soon will be) laid off or furloughed.

One of the areas of the regional economy that’s been hit hardest is the network of smaller music venues that are being forced to close their doors indefinitely, due to the Coronavirus.

“Small music venues face imminent risk of permanent closure if we don’t get immediate assistance,” states Jodi Ecklund, owner of Beacon Hill’s Clock-Out Lounge. “Many of these spaces won’t have the ability to re-open.”

And these independent businesses are indispensable to the Pacific Northwest’s cultural ecosystem. “Many music careers start in the independent music venues, [and] without them, opportunities for artist and audiences to connect will disappear,” Ecklund notes. “The small music venues assist in developing artists and nurturing their fan base. If we don’t get the help we need, now, there will be no going back.”

Ecklund’s sentiments are echoed by dozens of clubs and music halls, thousands of their employees, and potentially hundreds of thousands of music fans.

Long story short: Our smaller music venues–and by extent, an integral part of this region’s art and culture–will die unless decisive action is taken, immediately.

The upside is: YOU CAN HELP. It costs nothing to make yourself heard. And it’s fairly easy to do. But time is of the essence. Acting now is necessary to keep one of the Pacific Northwest’s greatest artistic resources–its music–alive.

The Washington Nightlife & Music Association (WANMA) has been formed to address this potential cultural catastrophe. WANMA represents 36 different independent music venues from Spokane to Tacoma to Seattle to Bellingham, all of whom are in serious jeopardy right now.

WANMA notes on their website that the most immediate, urgent need for these venues is actual cash assistance. Direct cash assistance is crucial for clubs and music halls to be able to recover financially: Unfortunately, expenses like rent, insurance, and utilities would vastly exceed any benefits that conventional PPP Loan Assistance can offer.

The Association has put together a five-point strategy for saving this pivotal part of our region’s music scene.

  1. Venues need actual cash assistance, not loans.
  2. Rent Forgiveness and Reductions
  3. Financial payments and extended assistance for the workforce
  4. Tax Relief
  5. Insurance Relief and Revisions

More details, including specifics on the above five points, can be found on this page of the WANMA website. Talking points for an email or call to your representative, are available here.

Among the ways you can help are the below suggestions, also listed on WANMA’s website.

  • Please email the offices of King County Executive, Dow Constantine, at kcexec@kingcounty.gov, and King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles at jean.kohl-welles@kingcounty.gov; also please consider a call to 202-224-3121. Tell your representatives that music venues are small businesses, in need of the above five-point strategy.
  • Please call Senators Patty Murray (202-224-2621) and Maria Cantwell (202-224-3441), with the above request as well.
  • Let these legislators know that these venues need cash assistance (NOT loans); Otherwise, they will not survive.
  • Consider signing this WANMA-coordinated petition on Change.org

Despite being ostensible for-profit businesses, most of these venues are run more for love than money. Like most of you reading this, the people staffing and operating these venues are passionate about giving struggling up-and-coming artists a place to learn their craft, find an audience, and earn some money doing what they love.

Imagine what the cultural landscape would be like if this pandemic had hit the PNW in the late ’80’s, just before Seattle made its mark on popular music. No musician is able to go straight from zero to the Key Arena, and in such a cultural landscape, artists like Nirvana, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam would never have had the opportunity to build a following with gigs in small clubs. The crucial stepping stones that would have led to each of those artists’ widespread success would never have happened. Our greatest cultural gift to the world would have died on the vine, before it even had a chance to grow.

Sometimes clubs surface and dissolve. Sad as it is, it’s an inevitable part of a city’s ecosystem, especially as rents rise and neighborhoods morph. But the prospect of every single small music venue in the Pacific Northwest going under simultaneously isn’t just unnatural: It will be catastrophic.

We’re perilously close to actually living that scenario now. And if it comes to pass, our music scene (and by extent the art and culture of the Pacific Northwest) will be irrevocably damaged.

But if we make ourselves heard, we stand a fighting chance of rescuing one of the Pacific Northwest’s most priceless resources.

Please help us create a tsunami of support for our local indie music venues and clubs, now.

Tony Kay

Tony Kay