Music

The Looming Near Extinction of Live Music in Chicago Is Very Real and Very Terrifying

Remember how much fun this used to be? Photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL) is a coalition of more than 20 Chicago music venues who initially banded together to fight developers threatening the scene with corporate venues, and have redirected their efforts towards saving the entire independent music scene during this pandemic.

CIVL includes many of the names Chicago music fans have grown to depend on for live music, including: Avondale Music Hall, Beat Kitchen, Café Mustache, Cole’s Bar, Dorian’s, Empty Bottle, GMan Tavern, The Hideout, Lincoln Hall, Martyrs’, Metro, Park West, Patio Theater, The Promontory, Reggies, The Riviera Theatre, Schubas, The Silver Room, Sleeping Village, Smartbar, Subterranean, Thalia Hall, Tonic Room, The Vic, and The Whistler.

Last week CIVL announced a partnership with the newly formed National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), which currently includes over 1,000 members representing all 50 states.

From what I can tell the partnership is to elevate and unite venues and fans amidst the crisis facing all in-person live music performances right now. You may have seen this elsewhere but perhaps these purely Chicago numbers (below) reported from 16 local venues participating in CIVL might provide the shock you need to realize just how huge an economic impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on your favorite local venues. And this doesn’t even highlight how much artists are being decimated by not being able to play to promote their work. The number of spring album releases that aren’t The Weeknd is turning into a virtual graveyard of stillborn ambition.

But for those of you that love numbers, here’s the effect the closure of music venues had in Chicago between March 15 and April 30, as reported by CIVL:

Venues (reporting): 16
Cancelled events: 1,219
Audience lost: 297,815
Lost Revenue: $7,176,253
Full-Time jobs affected: 206
Full-Time wages affected: $1,336,698
Part-Time jobs affected: 1,702
Part-Time wages affected: $2,119,810

That’s just a month and a half. And if you look at the list of participating venues you’ll see these numbers only reflect the trials of a small percentage of all the live music venues in Chicago.

And, honestly? These numbers are just a small percentage of the broader economic fallout afflicting both venues and everyone who utilizes them (from the biggest touring acts to the single, individual fan) so while these numbers are sobering, they are a mere glimpse into what’s ravishing the scene right now.

I know, this seems too terrifying to even fully comprehend! But we can all do little things to help keep these venues afloat in the short term. To that end, this is an excellent list of resources to donate to for some individual venues, and here is CIVL’s own list.

Keep up the good fight, because we need live music and the venues it gets played in, and when this pandemic finally subsides, we’re gonna need live music more than ever!


A version of this post originally appeared here.

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