AUSTIN (KXAN) — First to be shut down and last to be reopened: live music venues are wondering when their federal relief is coming. In December, a bill was signed into law to allocate $15 billion to supplement lost income for live music venues, but three months later they have yet to receive that money.
On Wednesday at South by Southwest, which typically features a lively music festival, a virtual panel discussed what this government relief will mean for the future of live music. The panel, moderated by New York Times reporter Stacy Cowly, featured musicians Lou Charle$ and Pat Green, Congressman Roger Williams (R-Texas) and Walter Kinzie, CEO of Encore Live.
Williams represents a district that stretches from Austin to north Texas. He’s a vocal supporter of the Save Our Stages Act and is now pushing for that money to get into the hands of music industry professionals sooner.
“The Save Our Stages Act, which you brought up is bipartisan — I repeat bipartisan — that President Trump signed into law back about nine weeks ago. And we still haven’t got the money to our venues yet,” Williams said.
Industry professionals are still waiting for the Small Business Association to release information on how to apply for the grant. Williams believes the application process will begin around April 1.
“I can promise you this: if this money comes through to me by the end of April, by May 1, 3,000 people will be back on payroll,” Kinzie said.
The music industry is comprised of much more than musicians, as the panel pointed out. Promoters, stage hands, bartenders and more rely on live music to pay their bills.
“You put one musician, like Pat Green, up on a stage, and what that really means is 173 people get a paycheck that night,” Kinzie said.
Musicians Green and Charle$ expressed concerns for those they saw lose their livelihoods in the past year. Many people who were very passionate about their jobs had to find alternative ways to make ends meet, Charle$ said. Green is hoping the federal aid will keep people afloat until live music is plentiful enough to pay their bills again.
“That’s really what I’m looking for, patchwork enough money together to keep the guys in my band, the guys that are on salary for me around,” Green said.
Although live concerts are different now, musicians are returning to the stage since Texas reopened. However, Charle$ is looking forward to more than money.
“From the artist perspective, what I’m really looking forward to with my creative brain is the kind of art renaissance that comes out of this, because I think that there’s going to be an explosion of just creative, innovative ideas,” Charle$ said. “For me, I want a venue open so we can see this.”