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Statewide Effort Aims to "Keep Music Live"

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all types of businesses, but perhaps none more significantly than live music venues, which have remained closed throughout Washington since March 15th. A new statewide effort is looking to help those businesses pay their bills.

Even as the coronavirus continues to spread through Washington communities, many businesses have reopened with limited capacity or restrictions in place.

“Restaurants were allowed to reopen to a certain degree. Retail now has been able to reopen to a certain degree, but independent music venues are still forced to be closed. And it’s looking like you’re probably not going to start seeing live music shows until at least late 2021 or early 2022.”

That’s Ginger Ewing, executive director of Spokane-based nonprofit Terrain and a board member of a new statewide effort aimed at providing relief to those small businesses. 

“Keep music live is a fundraising campaign. It was put together by venue owners and lovers of music across Washington state. And the goal is to raise at least $10 million in order to save independent music venues across Washington.”

The money raised will be distributed in the form of grants to music venues with a capacity of less than 1000 people that regularly host live music three or more days per week. Karli Ingersoll is the co-owner of Lucky You Lounge, a venue in Spokane that fits those criteria. She says Keep Music Live is not just about saving individual businesses like hers.

“The way that touring performing arts works is that bands need to have a robust touring schedule. They can’t spend three days off driving in between venues. Their livelihood depends on having a lot of opportunities spread out. So for Washington that means we need to have all of our venues sustain through this if we’re going to come back from it.”

With no additional support from the federal or state governments on the horizon, Ewing says, that network of small music venues is at real risk of collapse.

“It’s been predicted that sixty-three percent of small, independent music venues will close their doors by February 2021 if they don’t receive financial support and eighty-three percent by August 2021. So, it’s a really dire situation right now.”

But Ingersoll sees hope in the community of musicians, music lovers and business owners across the state who have come together for Keep Music Live.

“It’s just been really cool to collaborate with some really amazing people. Sir Mix-a-Lot is involved and people from Starbucks and big construction companies and people who own commercial property in Seattle. All these people who recognize that music is such an important part of our economy.”

For Ewing, the plight of small music venues is not just about business, it’s personal. 

“As someone who believes really really strongly in the transformational power of art and creativity, certainly music and live music falls into that. And I’ve seen time and time again people say ‘Music saved my life. Art saved my life.’ It’s what makes our communities alive and vibrant and we just desperately need them to be a part of our ecosystem when the pandemic is over.” 

More information about Keep Music Live and independent music venues in your community at

Chris Maccini previously worked at SPR as Morning Edition host and producing arts and special programming such as The Bookshelf, Poetry Moment, Northwest Arts Review, special features and more.
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