Staying Power | Music | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Music

Staying Power

Music venues are forced to stand together to survive the economic cost of the pandemic

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COURTESY STATE ROOM
  • Courtesy State Room

Sometimes, having a finger in every pot can actually just mean you have a real stake in something broader. The State Room Presents—the parent company of The State Room and The Commonwealth Room—also produces concerts for the Deer Valley Concert Series, the Maverick Center, Abravanel Hall, Capitol Theatre, Rose Wagner Hall and Kingsbury Hall, making it one of the busiest music-related businesses in the Greater SLC area. With the elimination of live shows due to the pandemic, The State Room is digging in its heels to protect and uplift the industry it holds dear.

"First and foremost we are concert-goers. We often go to shows that are not ours," The State Room Presents co-owner Darin Piccoli says, highlighting the sense of solidarity evident in the music world right now. This regard for music becomes clear if one takes a gander at The State Room's Facebook page, which is awash with links to live-streams that technically have nothing to do with the venue itself, but which flag virtual music-watching opportunities for all the fans who follow the page. With the future unclear—and thus likewise the opening dates for their own venues—they're hoping that investing their time and platforms in any and all music engagement will "kick the can down the road" so they can open in the future.

"I personally love when someone shoots me a link of a cool stream or anything related to music," Piccoli says, "so why not pay it forward? Live music is the most approachable and shared experience-art out there—we don't mind reminding people of that! We want people to miss music as much as we do!"

There's probably not much danger of that; no doubt all of us have swapped laments about missing live events like those hosted by The State Room and its family of venues. That's been the experience of Piccoli himself, at least. "As you can imagine, the text and email chains going around since the shit hit the fan have been abundant, and I say, let's keep the dialogue going," he says.

By dialogue, he probably means things like The State Room's alliance with the National Independent Venue Association, a new organization founded by venues and promoters in the wake of COVID-19's paralyzing effect on the nation's music industries. "First to be closed" and "last to open" are key words in the NIVA mission statement, where the music world's uniquely dire situation is laid out—despite being essential peripheral aspects of economic heavy hitters like tourism and the food-and-drinks industry, the entertainment industry will need specialized funding and aid if there's any chance of bouncing back. According to Piccoli, "NIVA is growing quickly and is taking a very political, legislative approach to make sure we cannot be forgotten. Currently we are working with other local promoters and agents to call attention [from] our Senators and House representatives. We have sent a letter to Senator Lee and are waiting for a reply—I guess it's time to rattle the cage."

It might just be time for such measures, as Piccoli emphasizes the particular precariousness of their situation. As of early May, the money from the Paycheck Protection Program would only last another eight weeks, after which Piccoli asserts they'd still need up to six months or more of government assistance before shows are possible again. Anyone who has seen scary projections about big festivals and stadium shows not returning until fall of 2021 can probably understand Piccoli's timeline concerns.

The State Room has also linked up with another group, The Independent Promoter Alliance, which launched in March. The organization focuses on connecting promoters so they can swap ideas about how to survive beyond government funding—things like streaming past shows, compiling CDs or ideas like one that The State Room is running with, The Poster Project. An old archive of show posters, some signed, has been turned into a money-maker for The State Room. Launched on May 11, the project allows folks to bid on the posters auction-style, supporting The State Room in the process, with new posters and bidding times occurring every Wednesday until every poster is gone.

An idea they'd kicked around before quarantine, The Poster Project was propelled to the top of the priority list once they needed new income. A labor of love for weeks turned into "one of the best days since our last show on March 11," Piccoli says about the launch day, which—though peppered with hiccups, just like a live show—was a big success.

While they summon more ideas for cool goodies to auction off when the posters run out, Piccoli encourages people to support other local businesses that are allowed to be open right now, demonstrating his—and The State Room's—true local-loving stripes. "Visit local artisan shops, donate to other arts, rent movies from local film societies, go buy your beer from local breweries and bars, get your harder stuff from the distilleries, get take-out food and tip like it was the best service you ever got, because it is!" he says. But don't forget the mask, because following guidelines and staying far away from each other right now is the only way we can eventually cram together at The State Room once more.

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