Will the show go on? Local music venues impacted by COVID-19


Candice Mayfield

Grayscale, a Philadelphia-based, pop-punk band, performs at The Waiting Room in the month leading up to the COVID-19 closings of local music venues. Photo by Candice Mayfield.

Concerts are jam-packed with good times, good music and a pretty good chance of contracting a deadly disease like COVID-19.

What happens when local music venues aren’t able to sell-out shows and pack arenas? Without artists touring during the pandemic, the future for local music venues remains uncertain.

Popular local music venues in the Omaha area include The Waiting Room, The Slowdown and Sokol Auditorium. These sites are struggling, and the near future doesn’t look much better considering the uncertainty around when concerts will return.

Across the country, a call to action is being made: Save our stages.

In an interview with the Omaha World-Herald, Slowdown co-owner Jason Kulbel said, “It’s not unique to Slowdown. It’s not unique to The Waiting Room. It’s not unique to Omaha. All these venues are bleeding all over the country.”

Omaha is a secondary market in the live music industry. As a result, venues fear that when shows do come back to stages, artists will focus on primary locations such as Denver, Chicago, etc.

This is why venues have banded together by joining the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). In Nebraska, 13 different venues have joined the movement seeking to save our stages so that we can see the eventual return of concerts.

The group reported that venues are suffering as they take a 90% higher revenue loss and that the association is at risk of also losing 90% of their members. The group began in the early stages of the pandemic and strives to support local live music venues that have been impacted by COVID-19.

The association is lobbying congress to pass a relief bill to assist with music and entertainment venues during this time. The Save Our Stages Act was introduced in late July by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

The bill would provide six months of financial support to reassure that local music venues are financially capable of reopening their doors to music fanatics everywhere.

Venues also seek the support of the RESTART act, which would give businesses flexibility in spending Paycheck Protection Act loans.

Omaha has a unique music scene that builds the foundation for many local artists and brings a wide array of artists to the area. Without the much-needed help, some worry that the music scene in Omaha could die out, reversing years of progress.

The Slowdown and other members of the NIVA group are holding out hope, despite financial hardship, for the safe return of the shows you love the most– but they can’t do it without support from the community.

Local music venues are encouraging you to show your support by visiting saveourstages.com and fill out a quick online form. This simple form generates a template form to send to the user’s congressional representatives based on their zip code.

“People keep asking me, ‘What can I do?’ ” Kulbel said in an interview with the Omaha World-Herald, “Don’t buy a T-shirt. Go there and fill it out. You can spend 30 seconds.”