There is something unsettling about the silence that has consumed stages and theatres across the country for months now, as hundreds of beloved independent performance venues have been forced to close because of COVID-19.
But that silence also motivated Audrey Fix Schafer to speak up in whatever way she could. She is with the National Independent Venue Association, a group that didn't exist before the pandemic. But as COVID-19 forced the closure of thousands of music venues across the country, this nonprofit began lobbying hard for Congress to help.
After months of waiting, they were finally able to pass the Save Our Stages Act, a bipartisan bill that will send $15 billion in stimulus aid to struggling music venues, theatres and other independent organizations that support the arts.
"The reason this got so much bipartisan support is that these small businesses aren’t just music places, they’re the economic engines of these communities. Our workers just simply can’t work; we would love to have them back, but we’re shuttered," Fix Schafer said.
It's estimated that nearly 12 million people across the country have jobs tied to live events. Research has also shown that for every one dollar you spend when you go to a concert, chances are you're spending another $12 at surrounding businesses.
"It was pretty obvious that if we went dark forever, so would all the businesses around these venues," Fix Schafer added.
From back rent to mortgages to utility bills, the money will be distributed by the Small Business Administration. All of it is music to the ears of some venues, but hundreds of others have already closed permanently.
"This money will enable venue operators to hold on, already hundreds have gone under and will never come back again, once these places shutter forever that’s it," she continued.
But for now, there is some hope on the horizon for this country's shuttered stages as they wait for the music to play once again.