#SaveMIStages seeks financial aid for concert venues

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Friday that non-residential indoor music venues can reopen on Oct. 9 with a limited capacity of 20 percent, or fewer than 20 people per 1,000 square feet. The largest of venues will be held to 500 people maximum.

The new mandate on its own likely isn’t enough to pull independent music venues out of their dire state. #SaveMIStages is a campaign petitioning the state government to provide financial aid to concert venues before it’s too late.

“It’s a simple math problem. Whatever level of ticket sales and revenue music venues and promoters had pre-pandemic went pretty much to zero in March, and has not recovered in the slightest,” said Nate Dorough, a concert promoter with the production company Audiotree Presents. “While our revenue is zero or worse, we still have to pay a lot of overhead and that’s a nasty formula for any business.”

Dorough said the new mandate will make a “tiny difference for a very small group of venues.” Such a limited capacity leaves too few tickets available for sale to turn a profit after all of the production costs at smaller venues.

#SaveMIStages is closely associated with the National Independent Venue Association’s larger nationwide effort, #SaveOurStages, which seeks the formation of a grant exclusively for concert venues in the next coronavirus relief package. Fearing that federal financial aid might not be coming as coronavirus relief talks stall, Dorough, along with other Michigan NIVA members, decided to bring things down to the state level.

“The 70-plus Michigan members of NIVA have been talking about what we can do on a state level to lobby state representatives and senators to see if there’s money that can be carved out,” Dorough said.

Dorough designed #SaveMIStages’ action plan with Michigan NIVA precinct captains Scott Hammontree, general manager of the Intersection, and Jennifer Lyon of MeanRed Productions.

“We propose that they put together a bill, or relief package, on a state level. We are being told by a lot of folks that we might be too late, but we’re trying any way we can to get a hold of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.”

Dorough warns that without financial relief, Michigan could see historic venues and theaters disappear. If you wish to support #SaveMIStages, visiting www.SaveMIStages.com provides instructions on how to contact your district’s state representative.

“What’s most valuable is that you write your own story. Why is that place important to you? What things did those places do for you? They need that impassioned plea to know that their constituents want these places,” Dorough said.

To learn more about #SaveMIStages, visit www.SaveMIStages.com

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