Home Arts & Entertainment Sold out dates cancelled in 2020: COVID’s impact on live music

Sold out dates cancelled in 2020: COVID’s impact on live music

Photo from a concert held at The Intersection's lower venue, The Elevation, in Feb. 2020. (Sabrina Edwards/The Collegiate)

By Chance Vincent

Since COVID-19 began spreading throughout the U.S. in late February of 2020,  the American way of life has changed immensely. Wearing masks, staying indoors and social distancing have become the new normal, to the disappointment of live music fans everywhere. 

When interviewed, the Talent Buyer and General Manager at the Intersection, Scott Hammontree, had a couple things to say about how live music will be impacted in the future. When asked if there was any kind of transition into safety precautions or just a total shutdown in general, Hammontree did not hesitate to open up about the Intersections recent struggles.

“So when it all started (the pandemic), it was touring and business as normal for that month of February and even early parts of March,” said Hammontree. “Some people in my office (including myself) were tracking the spread of the coronavirus on that John Hopkins website.” 

Before the virus started blowing up in the early few weeks of 2020, John Hopkins School of Medicine based in Baltimore, Maryland, was already tracking the movements, cases and statistics of the virus. Companies from all over the country, including the Intersection, “were on this site keeping an eye out for what was to come.” The virus wasn’t really prevalent in the media, there was a small amount of coverage, but not enough to warn everyone of what was going on.

“Once we got to late February or early March we started thinking that this isn’t good, we’re probably going to get shut down at some point,” said Hammontree. “We were really just hoping to make it through the month, mainly because March and April are two of our busier months. We had lots of sold out shows on the books, our 2020 was off to a record breaking start and it was around March 12th that we had our last show.”

Governor Whitmer’s capacity reduction was one of the final nails in the coffin, that and worldwide touring coming to a screeching halt. With 50 to 60 shows for the year on the books being postponed, rescheduled or cancelled, the Intersection was left with no business, after being entirely shut down. 

“Our immediate focus really became our staff members, we have upwards to 75 staff members working full and part-time,” said Hammontree. “Like many other places, we advised them to immediately apply for unemployment if they were able to, because that’s what we were told to do by the state of Michigan. We kept our staff on as long as we could, we even had a little t-shirt fundraiser that was basically designed to raise funds for our hourly staff, in case that unemployment runs out.”

The Intersection is currently still closed and not making any income as of roughly seven months ago. According to Hammontree, their main focus is not re-opening, because of the fact that there isn’t any touring going on. His main focus has been on an association he is part of called the National Independent Venue Association  (NIVA). It is made up of 3,000 independently owned concert venues, that are advocating the Federal Government to set up an aid program to help staff members who lost their jobs because of COVID.

“Things have been very difficult,” said Hammontree. “As far as opening goes, we obviously would love to do that, but we are not going to until science, our local doctors and the health department say that it’s appropriate to do so. We are not playing any games with this, there aren’t any politics involved, we want to open when it is truly safe to do so. As it feels right now, I don’t think we are going to be seeing shows the same way that we used to until maybe Summer or Fall of next year.”