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Senate Subcommittee Holds Hearing On The Live Event Industry
With the end of the legislative session quickly approaching, Congress continues to confront the ongoing financial and personal toll caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, giving creators hope that their needs will finally be addressed.
On Tuesday, December 15, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation's Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection conducted an oversight hearing regarding the precarious state of the live event industry due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Titled "Examining the Impact of COVID-19 on the Live Event Entertainment Industry," the hearing featured five witnesses from the music community, including Mr. David Fay (President/CEO, The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts), Mr. Adam Hartke (Owner, Cotillion and WAVE), Mr. Ron Laffitte (President, Patriot Management), Mr. Pete Pantuso (President/CEO, American Bus Association), and Mr. Michael Strickland (Owner, Bandit Lites).
Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) started the hearing by discussing how the airborne transmission of COVID-19 has rendered the live event industry inoperable and noted the number of industries financially impacted by the lack of regularly held live event performances, including neighboring restaurants and motorcoach companies, among others. The Chairman outlined various legislative proposals before the committee which would offer "struggling businesses a lifeline to continue operations until they can return to doing what they love – entertaining Americans."
After thanking the witnesses for their participation, Subcommittee Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) discussed how venues operating at limited capacity or on a completely virtual basis are not profitable and addressed his unhappiness with the grim outlook of the live event sector. The Ranking Member stated that, "Our cultural institutions are really the lifeblood of our democracy…they are examples of our cultural heritage and treasure, and we ignore their needs at our grave peril."
As a lead sponsor of the Save Our Stages Act, Senator Klobuchar (D-Minn.) highlighted the growing need to pass relief for independent venues. Venues are, "the heart of our communities, the place that people go…we don't want to be the Congress that lets the music die and we don't want this to be the year that we let our cultural icons die," argued Sen. Klobuchar. In response to Sen. Klobuchar's statements, Mr. Hartke, owner of multiple venues, argued that these historic venues are not easily replaced since it took generations to build relationships with both the surrounding community and the touring companies.
Senator Blackburn (R-Tenn.) stressed the immediate impact felt by the live entertainment industry due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in both Tennessee and across the nation. "When the pandemic hit, the economy got shut down, [the live event industry] went from running wide open to a dead stop overnight…It is important to realize they don't have another source [of income]." Along with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Blackburn recently introduced the bipartisan HITS Act in the Senate, to help independent creators get back in the recording studio to create new music.
And, Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) acknowledged the overwhelming impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the live entertainment industry. "Every person, business, and industry has been impacted by this pandemic but there is no question the live entertainment industry has been hit especially hard." Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) offered the RESTART Act, a bill he introduced along with Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) that would provide a lifeline to small- and medium-sized businesses throughout the music ecosystem.
The Recording Academy continues to call on Congress to pass additional relief that will bring aid to music makers and small businesses before the end of the year. Failure to act will leave millions of workers and small businesses, including countless in the live event industry, without the aid they desperately need.