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Shuttered but not silent: Venues play a role in US election

While US stages remain silent, venues have been utilised for posters, TV adverts and polling stations during the presidential campaigns

By IQ on 30 Oct 2020

Nashville venue Exit/In teamed up with the Democratic National Committee

Nashville venue Exit/In teamed up with the Democratic National Committee

image © Exit/In

Music venues across the US have been shuttered for many months due to a lack of government support but while the stages have remained silent during the pandemic, operators have not.

In the run-up to the 3 November presidential election, the live sector has played a significant part in the campaigns.

Ahead of Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s final debate at Belmont University last week, a number of venues in Nashville teamed up with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to display political concert-style posters for the visit.

According to Vanity Fair, Exit/In, the End, the 5 Spot, Rudy’s Jazz Room, and Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge were among the venues that erected posters which read ‘Trump Lied 220K+ Died,’ in reference to the impact of coronavirus on citizens and the economy, and called the president the ‘super-spreader in chief’.

Chris Cobb, the owner and operator of historic rock club Exit/In, told Vanity Fair: “For the last eight months I’ve spent more time in politics than I did in music because of the failure of the government. It’s not something I want to continue doing.”

Adrienne Watson, the director of the DNC’s war room who led the project, said: “The music scene has always been passionate and resolute in the face of crisis—not just as artists, but as public servants,” she said in an email. “Live performance events and venues have been one of the industries hardest hit by Trump’s failure to control the virus.”

Elsewhere, Michigan venue the Blind Pig and its owner Joe Malcoun were caught in the political crossfire after appearing in a TV ad for the Biden campaign.

The ad includes photos and footage of concerts at the Blind Pig, which has hosted shows from Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, Iggy Pop, John Lennon and more, as well as empty barstools to show that the venue cannot operate during the pandemic.

“For the last eight months I’ve spent more time in politics than I did in music because of the failure of the government”

In the video, Malcoun says, “This is the reality of Trump’s Covid response. We don’t know how much longer we can survive not having any revenue.”

According to The New York Times, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign said that the ad – which made its debut on 18 October during an NFL game – was removed because Malcoun and his family were “doxxed, harassed, and threatened after the Trump campaign has sought to smear [the venue owner]”.

According to The Times, the backlash is apparently due to the origins of Joe Malcoun’s wealth.

Elsewhere, a number of US venues have been doubling as polling stations including  Madison Square Garden in New York, the Los Angeles Forum, State Farm Arena in Atlanta and Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.

Concert giant Live Nation also joined the cause, transforming over 100 of its venues into stations including the Wiltern (1,850-cap.) and Hollywood Palladium (3,800-cap.) in Los Angeles, Emo’s (1,700-cap.) in Austin, Texas, and the Buckhead Theatre (1,800-cap.) in Atlanta.

Grassroots music venues have largely been sidelined during the presidential campaign with president Donald Trump announcing he was postponing negotiations on a new stimulus package which would’ve thrown the live sector a much-needed lifeline.

The ‘Heroes Act’ stimulus package includes the Save Our Stages Act, a US$10 billion grant programme designed to provide financial support for live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives in the US.

The Democratic-controlled House passed the act on Thursday (1 October) but Trump says he won’t return to the negotiating table until after 3 November’s presidential election.

Following the news, former WME-chief Marc Geiger has announced a $75 million ‘war chest’ to bail out US venues that are struggling during the pandemic and help them to reopen.


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