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Local promoter worried live music industry facing collapse by deepening pandemic

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Posted at 2:00 PM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 16:00:36-05

MISSOULA — Local promoter worried live music industry facing collapse by deepening pandemic.

Undoubtedly you missed going to a concert, or two, with friends this year. But Missoula's leading promoter worries without a financial lifeline, the country's entire live music industry will crumble in a matter of weeks.

And Nick Checota said it's more than just local promoters and venues that could vanish, but the entire supporting structure.

"The industry as a whole is in almost catastrophic state right now and without some support, coming within the next 6-to-8 weeks. You're going to see venues collapse all over the United States," said Checota

An especially gloomy prediction from the man who's promoted Missoula as a Northwest concert destination. The year didn't start that way, with Nick Checota looking forward to another full schedule at the Kettlehouse Amphitheater and other local venues. But as the pandemic pulled acts off the road, that excitement tanked. And now 9-months later it isn't any better.

“You know the general public misses the live music. But I don't know if they quite understand what's going on behind the scenes, behind the venues with agencies, with management companies. All of those organizations have laid off all their staff. For instance, at Logjam, we've had to let 125 people go because we don't envision, potentially, having shows maybe until 2022. So no business can operate for a year and a half with zero revenue. It's not sustainable," said Chetco.

From Missoula to Helena to Great Falls and Billings, music venues have tried to adapt, but audiences are a fraction of what's needed.

The entertainment business was shut out of the CARES Act, the first economic stimulus bill. Other ideas have come along, like the Save Our Stages campaign, but they've become mired in politics.

The SOS Act would provide 10-billion dollars in grants, helping not just promoters and venues, but the entire entertainment ecosystem.

“Everything from the venue operators and promoters, which Logjam is, and then you have all the production companies like Rocky Mountain Rigging and some of the other production companies and all the stagehands and crews and sound. Engineers are out of work. And then beyond that, you have all the concession and bar people that are out of work from that, and then leaving that segment of the industry, you have agencies that represent artists. You have management companies that represent artists. And then you have the artists themselves and no one in that industry is working or earning a dime of revenue right now, we are all 100% shuttered," said Chetco.

The latest efforts would include the SOS Act in the most recent stimulus PKG. But as the "saber rattling" continues in D-C, time is running out.

And it's not just the music business. The shutdown is sucking tens of millions of dollars out of the Missoula economy.