Phil Ehart – Kansas's drummer, founder, and manager – told CNBC Tuesday that the coronavirus interruption to concerts had had a troubling effect on the entire live entertainment industry.
"We all sit at home … there is no income," said Ehart in a "Squawk Box" interview. "We are stranded."
Before the pandemic, Kansas, which has been making music since the 1970s, was preparing to tour the US to release its new album "The Absence of Presence".
Then Ehart said, "We got a call from our agent. He said," Folks, go home. … California closes, Oregon, Las Vegas, everything started to shut down. ""
"At first it's very amazing," added the drummer. "Then you notice that all of our support staff – our lighting, our trucking and our staging – are at home. It begins to have an effect and at the end of this tunnel there is no more light."
While the live entertainment industry includes artists and musicians who have had to cancel tours, the lack of events has also affected millions of other people working behind the scenes.
A concert by Bandit Lites.
Michael T. Strickland, Chairman and Founder of Bandit Lites, is one of those in trouble. His 45-year-old company provides lighting for stage shows.
“Unlike some other difficult companies, we are in a moment when there is absolutely nothing we can do,” said Strickland, who appeared with Ehart on CNBC. "You have 10 million people who are literally making no income."
According to an industry survey conducted in April, soon after the full state lockdown began, over 76% of entertainment technology company owners said they had lost all of their cash flow, with about 96% of them shedding staff.
"The entire live events industry will run out of income on March 13," said Strickland. "It's been five months since the virus emerged and it will be another five months before we can get open when we can get open."
"We speak for Kansas," added Ehart, "we're already moving our dates from 2020 to 2021. The other day we started moving our dates to 2022. It doesn't look any better."
Ehart also noted that even if things start over, the effects that are occurring now may be felt for years to come.
"Think of your favorite theater, your favorite performing arts centers," he said. "If they don't have concerts for a year or two they won't survive. … These theaters will be bought, probably demolished, and when we all come out of them they won't be there." . "
It is for this reason that people like Ehart and Strickland are calling on Congress to introduce more support for small businesses, especially those involved in live entertainment.
Strickland has been speaking to GOP Senators from Tennessee Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn since March when Capitol Hill passed and President Donald Trump signed the $ 2.2 trillion CARES bill that created the federal paycheck protection program, to give companies unsuccessful loans so they can keep paying their employees during the coronavirus crisis.
"What Congress did for us in April with the PPP was phenomenal," said Strickland. "That was kind of a bridging loan when we all thought it would be over in 30 to 60 days. Now we've gone beyond that and everyone in the small business community is out of money."
Strickland is part of the #RedAlertRESTART initiative, which aims to draw attention to the crisis that small businesses in the industry are facing. On September 1, around 2,000 buildings and areas across North America will be lit in red, including the Empire State Building in New York City, the Hollywood Bowl in California, and even Niagara Falls on the US-Canada border. There was a similar call to action in the UK earlier this month.
#RedAlert UK illuminates the Thames.
Strickland emphasized the immediacy of the crisis. "Not only will venues no longer exist, we are already losing businesses," he said. "More importantly, we are losing people from this market sector and moving into other market sectors. That is why it is so important that the increased unemployment is prolonged."
While it may be too early to say exactly when live events will return, Strickland told CNBC he was confident that people will want to attend events and concerts will return in person rather than virtually.
It's the same with Ehart. "They want to believe that one day we will come out of it and there will be concerts again, there will be sports, ballet," said the Kansas founder. "I like to stay positive."