Sean McPherson, Luke Taylor, Anna Weggel
"Music is one of our biggest exports," says Senator Amy Klobuchar. "People love American music. And we're going to lose American music if we don't make sure that we have places for artists to perform."
In a conversation with Sean McPherson on The Current's Morning Show, Senator Klobuchar describes her motivation for a new bill in Congress designed to keep small music venues from closing as a result of the pandemic. On July 22, Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Save Our Stages Act, which would provide Small Business Administration grants for independent live music venue operators affected by COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. These grants would provide six months of financial support to keep venues afloat, to pay employees, and to preserve a critical economic sector for communities across America.
"Everyone's been hit by this pandemic, economically, health-wise," Klobuchar tells McPherson. "But certain businesses and certain employees are hit more than others, and one of those is music venues. It makes sense, right? People cannot stand shoulder to shoulder right how. There's No mosh pits right now. It's a whole other scene."
Klobuchar says most venues predict they will not withstand the economic effects of the pandemic. "The problem is that these venues, 90 percent of them across the country — places like First Avenue, the Orpheum Theatre, the Fitzgerald Theater, the Kato Ballroom in Mankato, it's all over our state — they're going to close down. Ninety percent in the country say they're going to close down if we don't figure something out for good.
"These venues important to artists," Klobuchar continues. "It is not just our culture, which it is, it's not just about artists like Lizzo, that came up through the Minnesota music scene. It is also a big economic boost to our country."
McPherson points out that bipartisan support for a bill is a rare commodity in Washington these days. Klobuchar explains that a love of music and a concern about the economic impact has brought people together. "For many towns, these are really important part of their cultural life, going to those concerts, going to those plays," she says. "It's not just Broadway, it isn't just First Avenue as much as we love it, it's also even smaller towns all across the country. I think that was part of it, and just the economic part of this."
There is also the wider economic impact beyond the venues themselves, as Klobuchar explains the residual effects on restaurants, hotels and other businesses in the communities surrounding music venues. And while the idea of people going out to concerts, restaurants and the like seems implausible right now, Klobuchar is taking the long view. "We're in a nightmare right now," she says, "but after that, we're going to have to start making sure our economy comes back in a big way."