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SLEN: Save Our Stages Act fails many in live biz

Further relief beyond Save Our Stages, the relief bill passed by the US Congress earlier this week, must be provided in 2021 to American live events workers, many of whom will not benefit from the bill’s provisions, the Save Live Events Now (SLEN) coalition has warned.

SLENformed in October by companies including Live Nation, AEG Presents, WME, CAA, UTA, Paradigm Talent Agency, Feld Entertainment, Oak View Group and ASM Global – says that while the “passage of the Consolidation Appropriations Act of 2021”, which incorporates the Save Our Stages bill, “was an important step forward for many of those across the nation impacted by the coronavirus pandemic”, more must be done to help those who have fallen through the cracks.

“For many in the live events industry this is a [sticking plaster] on a large cut. It helps to cover a portion of the cut, but doesn’t stop the bleeding,” comments SLEN spokesperson Jeanne Moran. “The live events industry was the first to stop operations due to the pandemic and will likely be one of the last to restart, and the Save Live Events Now coalition will continue to shine a light on the vast and diverse ecosystem of workers and industries impacted by the shutdown of the live events industry due to Covid-19 in the year ahead.”

According to SLEN, since March 77% of all US live entertainment professionals have lost 100% of their income, while staff and crew have been reduced by almost 80% and 62% of American artists are unemployed.

“This helps to cover a portion of the cut, but doesn’t stop the bleeding”

“The Save Our Stages Act will provide relief to the industry, but it leaves behind key segments of the industry, which is why to truly save the live events industry – and more specifically the workers who power it – more must be done,” explains the organisation in a statement. “For example, the deal restores the federal pandemic unemployment compensation at $300 per week for 11 weeks, and certain self-employed and gig workers could get an extra $100 per week. While this is less than the $600 a week over a 16-week period desired by SLEN, this deal improves upon the status quo.

“Overall, this is a step in the right direction, but more work needs to be done – enhanced relief and additional extensions will be urgently needed early next year, as most live events workers will continue to be out of work past mid-March when these provisions expire.”

Concludes Moran: “We look forward to working with those on both sides of the aisle in the new Congress, as well as the new administration to ensure that meaningful action is taken to aid the millions of people whose livelihoods remain severely impacted by the shutdown of live events.”

New US president Joe Biden takes office on 20 January 2021.

 


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Major US music orgs write to Congress for Covid aid

The Recording Academy, the Recording Industry Association of America and Music Managers Forum US are among the US organisations that have written to Congress to ask for additional support to “avoid a level of loss that that could devastate everyone in the music industry for a generation”.

The letter reads: “There is no denying that Covid-19 has truly tested the nation, and it has had a devastating effect on our country’s music industry. The live music business – once a sign of a thriving community and a draw to our cultural and commercial centres – has gone tragically silent. The music community remains grateful for Congress’ bipartisan relief efforts earlier this year, but more must be done soon.”

In the letter, the organisations present six recommendations to Congress: renew and extend existing benefits that have proved indispensable; pass the Restart Act (Reviving the Economy Sustainably Towards a Recovery), which is currently stalled; fix the Cares Act by passing the Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Act.

The signatories have also urged Congress to: expand the Saves Our Stages Act; expand employer retention tax credits and pass a 100% Cobra premium subsidy; and pass the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act and the Hits Act.

The letter concludes with: “Like many in 2020, our community has come together to speak with one voice to ensure that we all can enjoy better days in the future together. We hope that with your leadership, Congress, in the upcoming lame duck session, will take this clear opportunity to save American music, culture, and countless small businesses. Thank you for your consideration.”

Read the letter in full below.

 


24 November 2020

Dear Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer and Leader McCarthy,

There is no denying that Covid-19 has truly tested the nation, and it has had a devastating effect on our country’s music industry. The live music business – once a sign of a thriving community and a draw to our cultural and commercial centres – has gone tragically silent. The music community remains grateful for Congress’ bipartisan relief efforts earlier this year, but more must be done soon to avoid a level of loss that that could devastate artists, musicians, engineers, producers, venues, and everyone in the music industry for a generation.

First, Congress must renew and extend existing benefits that have proved indispensable, including the weekly funding provided through Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. Congress must also act to pass the Restart Act, to build on the short-term relief provided by the Paycheck Protection Program.

Second, Congress must fix an unintended error in the Cares Act by passing the Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Act. Mixed earners, or gig workers with a minimum amount of W-2 income, have been excluded from Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and overly burdensome PUA documentation requirements are out of step with the workplace realities of the gig economy.

Third, with no clear direction on when safe public gatherings may resume, Congress must expand the current form of the Save Our Stages Act and pass it to provide sufficient assistance for small venues and multi-use publicly owned venues. 77% of people in the live events industry have lost 100% of their incomes, including 97% of 1099 workers. These people work at venues of all sizes and in a variety of capacities – whether it be full-time, part-time, or on the side as a gig worker. With uncertainty surrounding the resumption of live events, most of these workers are still struggling to make ends meet.

Providing direct financial relief to the workers of all venues is critical to keeping local communities afloat. Indeed, dollars spent to keep venues open have a multiplier effect, as live music brings patrons to hotels, restaurants, and other small businesses that are also struggling to survive. Expanding Save Our Stages to include all different types of live events workers – and not excluding them simply for where they work – will help revitalize our economy at the ground level.

Fourth, Congress must do more to ensure workers can keep their job-based healthcare plans during this pandemic. We believe Congress should expand employer retention tax credits and pass a 100% Cobra premium subsidy to ensure that job disruptions through no fault of their own don’t cost Americans their health as well as their livelihoods.

Finally, Congress must ensure that tax relief reaches musicians and workers in the performing arts by passing the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act and the HITS Act.

Like many in 2020, our community has come together to speak with one voice to ensure that we all can enjoy better days in the future together. We hope that with your leadership, Congress, in the upcoming lame duck session, will take this clear opportunity to save American music, culture, and countless small businesses. Thank you for your consideration.

Signed: Academy of Country Music; Artist Rights Alliance; Broadcast Music, Inc; Christian Music Trade Association; Church Music Publishers Association Action Fund; Country Music Association; Gospel Music Association; Music Artists Coalition; Music Managers Forum – US; National Music Publishers Association; Production Music Association; Recording Academy; Recording Industry Association of America; SESAC; Society of Composers & Lyricists; Songwriters of North America; SoundExchange; Southern Gospel Music Guild; The American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers; The Living Legends Foundation, Inc; The Rhythm & Blues Foundation, Inc.

 


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US biz faces “mass collapse” as Trump abandons talks

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) has urged US president Donald Trump to work with legislators on emergency funding for the live sector, after Trump announced he is walking away from talks over further stimulus funding until after 3 November’s presidential election.

Trump, who is recovering from Covid-19, said yesterday (6 October) he has instructed aides to stop negotiations on a new stimulus package until after the election. “Immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill [sic] that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” he tweeted.

Rival presidential candidate Joe Biden accused Trump of “turn[ing] his back” on Americans hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. “If you are out of work, if your business is closed, if your child’s school is shut down, if you are seeing layoffs in your community, Donald Trump decided today that none of that – none of it – matters to him,” said Biden.

Trump’s tweet came as an unwelcome surprise to NVIA, which is counting on the speedy passage of the Save Our Stages Act – part of the wider ‘Heroes Act’ stimulus package – to support the grassroots venue sector through a difficult winter.

“This is real. We need help. We urge Congress and the White House to continue negotiations”

In a statement, NIVA’s director of communications, Audrey Fix Schaefer, says anything less than the immediate resumption of talks would be disastrous for its hundreds of member venues.

“We have been sounding the alarm since April that if our members don’t get emergency assistance, they will go under forever – and it’s happening,” comments Fix Schaefer.

“This is real. We need help. We urge Congress and the White House to continue negotiations and reach a deal quickly or there will be a mass collapse of this industry.

“The Save Our Stages Act has already passed the House [of Representatives] and has strong bipartisan support, with more than 160 Congresspeople cosponsoring, because they know independent venues can be part of our country’s economic renewal once it’s safe to welcome people back – if our venues can survive this pandemic.”

“We’re also hoping for the sake of our furloughed employees that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will be extended, as people are suffering through no fault of their own,” she adds.

 


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Live entertainment giants call for US federal aid

A coalition of some the country’s leading promoters, show producers and venue managers have written to the US federal government to request an aid package specifically for the live entertainment business.

According to Billboard in the US, which has seen a copy of the letter, the 19 signatories – which include the likes of Live Nation, AEG, Feld Entertainment and arena operator VenuWorks – are asking for the Paycheck Protection Program [sic] to be extended to entertainment companies with 500 or fewer employees, as well loans for medium-sized businesses under existing programmes including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Main Street Lending scheme.

“Our businesses were the first to close and will be the last to reopen,” reads the letter, dated April 2020, which is also signed by the Broadway League, Spectra Venue Management and the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM).

“Without immediate financial assistance, the future of the public entertainment and event industry is in question. Accordingly, Congress must act now to address the severe impact that governmental closures orders have had on this industry.”

“Congress must act now to address the severe impact that governmental closures orders have had on this industry”

The situation is particularly urgent given that many business are struggling to obtain pay-outs from insurance claims for loss of earnings – a phenomenon also being experienced by their colleagues in France and the UK. “Many insurance carriers have pre-emptively asserted that property damage and event cancellation policies will not provide coverage related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter states.

Insurers and brokers, in partnership with Congress, must therefore establish ‘business recovery fund’ for the entertainment industry, it continues, “modelled on the 9-11 victims fund, to aid the businesses and their employees that were forced to shut down due to Covid-19, and will continue to struggle even after the economy restarts”.

The signatories are also requesting that authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Emergency Management Association establish a working group with members of the entertainment industry “to put forth voluntary guidelines that can be implemented by venues”. Companies that comply with these guidelines “should receive protection from Covid-19-related lawsuits,” they add.

The group is the second live entertainment association to lobby the US Congress for financial assistance, following the newly formed National Independent Venue Association earlier this month.

 


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