CROWDFUNDING RADAR: Venues Seek Support
The Rialto Theatre in Tucson, Arizona (photo by C. Elliott)
If you’re like me, your social media feed is probably full of artists doing Facebook or Instagram livestreamed “virtual concerts” to keep busy and hopefully generate some tips and merchandise sales while they can’t tour. But the concert industry supports a whole host of other people who make our live music experience better, from bartenders and ticket takers to security personnel, technicians, and house photographers. Even smaller venues themselves are at risk as costs like rent don’t stop coming, though the audience has. In some cases, these venues have taken a page from the artists they normally host and turned to crowdfunding campaigns to keep their expenses paid and their staff supported during the lockdown. This week, I’m featuring four venues, spread across the nation, that are seeking support, and offering merchandise and perks as incentives. If your favorite music venue isn’t featured here, go to their website. Many more have links to support their staff, while others have links to the National Independent Venue Association.
Rialto Theatre – Tuscon, Arizona (click here to view campaign)
If you are a regular reader of Amos Perrine’s Through the Lens column, you will likely recognize the name of Tuscon’s Rialto Theatre through the stunning pictures of regular Lens contributor C. Elliott, who calls the Rialto home base. The Rialto, which also includes R Bar and 191 Toole, has had to furlough most of its staff during the COVID-19 closures and is running a GoFundMe campaign with all funds going to purchase groceries and other necessities for Rialto staff while they go through the process of filing for unemployment benefits. Perks include Rialto merchandise like shirts and stickers, tickets to future shows, and the opportunity to have your “fantasy concert lineup” appear on their marquee. So if you ever wanted to see Stevie Ray Vaughan, B.B. King, and Robert Johnson perform together, The Rialto can make it so, or at least the billing for it.
Station Inn – Nashville, Tennessee (click here to view campaign)
This one hits close to home for me as I’ve spent many a happy AmericanaFest evening eating a bowl of popcorn and drinking a local brew while watching a show at one of Nashville’s most historic venues. Rather than running a campaign through one of the crowdfunding sites, Station Inn is handling its fundraiser in-house via what they are calling the Lockdown Club, holding a raffle for a merchandise bundle, limited edition Lonesome Bluegrass posters (the last live show performed at the venue before closure), show tickets, and sponsorship opportunities on its Station Inn TV feed of rebroadcasts.
Sweetwater Music Hall – Mill Valley, California (click here to view campaign)
California has been one of the most proactive states in shutting down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and one of the more depressingly realistic in its estimate of the timeline for large scale close-quarters gatherings like concerts to resume. So Sweetwater Music Hall, which has long been a staple of folk and roots music in the San Francisco area and has more the 50 staff on the payroll, is raising money via Indiegogo that will be distributed evenly among its staff. Perks include a $25 gift card for Sweetwater’s cafe and bar, a “Listen to the Music and STFU” shirt, and two tickets to a future show of your choice.
Knitting Factory – Brooklyn, New York (click here to view campaign)
I had to include a venue in New York City, one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19, on this list, and Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory is a worthy one. Opened in 1987, Knitting Factory has long been known for its eclectic approach to booking, the more experimental the better. Now it’s running a campaign through Kickstarter to provide for its staff and continue to pay rent until live music resumes. Perks include Knitting Factory socks and hoodies, mixing advice from a seasoned engineer, and five hours of multi-track recording at the venue.