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Mix Blog Live: Well, At Least Someone Cares

While the public cheered recent announcements of limited-capacity venue reopenings, Steve La Cerra looks at the economics and calls it a non-starter; meanwhile, he does appreciate what the Recording Academy is doing.

I can’t help but feel a little sick to my stomach as I hear reports of state authorities starting to lift Covid restrictions on entertainment venues. It should be good news, right? Maybe in theory, but I feel like it’s lip service.

Yesterday I heard a report from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy that starting on March 1, that state’s venues with indoor seating of 5,000 or more will be allowed to host events at 10 percent capacity. This news comes on the heels of an announcement last week from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stating that arenas, stadiums and music venues in New York that hold 10,000 or more will be allowed to reopen today (February 23), also at 10 percent capacity.

The news is sure to makes sports fans happy because they may be able to attend an event, ticket demand notwithstanding. But make no mistake: that event was happening anyway, patrons or not. A basketball or hockey game requires the building to be open regardless of whether or not fans are in the seats, though truth be told there’s not much need for food, beverage or other concession workers at a game sans patrons. I’m sure that owners of sports teams are smarting from lack of ticket sales, but their events go on and they still have other revenue streams such as TV and radio.

The concept of 10 percent of capacity for a music event is a non-starter, and the idea that this is good news for the concert industry displays just how little people know about our industry. If you add up the artist guarantee, the cost of renting the building, insurance, wages for venue workers such as tech crew, loaders, stage hands, “front-of-house” venue staff, catering, sound, lighting, ticket fees, and advertising… “poof!” There’s no point in running the show.

Bottom line: 10 percent capacity is useless to the entertainment industry, though it is a minuscule step in the right direction. The discussion doesn’t get serious until we can book venues to at least 50 or 60 percent capacity—unless you want to try selling a “premium exclusive” event where the price of admission is $500 to $1,000 per ticket. Good luck with that.

On a more optimistic note, MusiCares®, a division of the Recording Academy, has announced Music On A Mission, an official GRAMMY Week event that will honor the resilience of the music community. Featuring performances by HAIM, H.E.R, Jhené Aiko, and John Legend, the date for this virtual fundraiser is March 12, 2021. There will also be performances released from the MusicCares archives featuring Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Usher, as well as appearances by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jonas Brothers, Lionel Richie and others.

MusiCares has already distributed more than $22 million since the start of the pandemic in an effort to help more than 25,000 music people across the industry, including songwriters, musicians, engineers, producers, bus drivers, crew, techs, label employees, makeup artists and others. Proceeds from Music On A Mission will further that cause.

Tickets for Music On A Mission are available to the public for $25 and are on sale now at