The Truth About The North’s Music Venues

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By Beth Milligan
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March 22, 2021

“The show must go on.”

It’s a common mantra in show business, but what happens when a global pandemic shutters venues and turns concerts and other live performances into potential super-spreader events? How can the show go on when the show literally can’t go on? For the past year, music venues across the country have been contending with these questions – with increasing desperation. While every industry has been touched by COVID-19 in some way, arguably no sector has been hammered as hard as live music. Last summer, a survey of nearly 2,000 music professionals, conducted by the National Independent Venue Association, found that 90 percent of independent music venues were at risk of closing their doors permanently due to the pandemic.

The good news is that, finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel: The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that all state residents aged 16 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 5. Increasingly, signs point to vaccination efforts being widespread enough to achieve herd immunity — or something close to it — by summer. That news bodes well for live music, which could potentially see the light of day in 2021 after more than a year of stage lights gone dark.

In this week’s Northern Express, sister publication of The Ticker, writer Craig Manning speaks with a dozen different northern Michigan venues — ranging from small, intimate rooms to sprawling open-air auditoriums — to get a sense of where things stand as the coronavirus pandemic reaches what will hopefully prove to be its twilight days. Read feedback from venue operators and five key takeways about the possible future of the industry by reading the Northern Express online, or by picking up a free copy at one of nearly 700 spots in 14 counties across northern Michigan.


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