It's now or never, we have to make our voices heard


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July 16, 2020—Michael T. Strickland, Chair of Bandit Lites, joins NAMM in urging members of the live entertainment industry to appeal to their Congressional Representatives and Senators for support for the industry. He underscores the urgency of acting now with the following letter to the industry:

Today, July 16, 2020, is D Day for the Live Event Industry. Today is the moment in time when we collectively begin the final push to work with our Congresspeople and Senators to assure that our industry is able to survive into 2021. On March 12th when this anomaly of COVID-19 invaded us, our world shut down in a moment. Most of us believed that we would be back to normal in 30 to 90 days. So, we all quietly followed instructions, shut down, gathered our resources, and went into an imposed hibernation. As we moved to the end of June and the reality of the situation became apparent, everyone was forced to take a serious look at their own circumstance as it related to the truth that our industry was still completely shuttered.

I had previously written that June 30 would be a day when the future of Live Events for 2020 would be clearly defined. Much like anticipating the Super Bowl or the World Cup, I believed a final result would occur. We would have a definitive answer. I never saw what happened coming. A tie. None of us could imagine nor would we accept a tie in the Super Bowl or The World Cup. But with the COVID-19 virus, we have been handed a tie. There is not a clear winner or a clear path. The U.S., and indeed the world, is split on what path to take going forward. Do we shut or do we open? Schools, churches, restaurants, theaters, malls, stores, sports and yes, venues and events. Where we sit medically has been interpreted in several different ways. You may feel your perception is correct, but other people have different perceptions. Thus, the political situation is equally confusing. The medical and the political situation are intertwined now and there is no 100% agreement on a path forward. Perhaps I was foolish to believe it was as simple as open or shut.

This is what we do know now. The likelihood of events reopening to a significant level in the next 3 to 4 months is very low. Thus, to a point, we do have a decision. How many times have you asked your boss a question and gotten no answer? The non-answer is an answer. In this case, the lack of a clear path to reopening means we remain shuttered. That is where we are. It does not matter why. That is just where we are. We are still in the quicksand and need to focus on getting out rather than how we got here.

This leads us to today, D Day. In the last four months I have gotten to know many of you. I have made hundreds of new friends. I have heard your wants, needs, concerns and fears. We have become like the soldiers in the landing crafts headed to Omaha Beach on D Day. The recent time together has made us one, and we are all staring at the cliffs on the beach ahead wondering how we survive. Together. So, all we have at this exact moment is each other and the strength of our size. Our time together has made us one, and in the next 10 days what we do will determine our fate. Together, we win. You know that. I know that. We know that. But we must all work in unison to achieve our goals and succeed.

The goal at this point is clear and simple. We have all made it to today through sheer grit and determination. We will make it to the end, but we cannot give up. We discovered along the way that we are indeed a band of gypsies with no real, strong, common voice in Washington DC. Think of us like a lot of children, and our Congresspeople and Senators are mom and dad. If we want something, we need to ask Mom and Dad. But we had no strong voice. We were but whispers in the wind.

In the last 12 weeks the various segments of the industry have pulled together, and we are all now on the same page, speaking the same language. As the events unfolded, we discovered that there was an organization with a large, loud voice in Washington. That organization is NAMM. The National Association of Music Merchandisers. They have long fought for their industry in Washington and indeed achieved great things. They have a staff, a focus, and a budget to achieve goals in Washington. They actually speak to Mom and Dad. They are heard.

Joe Lamond, the President of NAMM, has graciously agreed for NAMM to be the voice for the Live Event Industry at this time. Live Events are part of the fabric of what NAAM represents, and it is time Live Events became a part of and supported NAMM. I joined today! NAMM is now working on behalf of all of the music and Live Events industry and people in this time of need. As we invade the beachfront, NAMM is the tip of the spear. The NAMM lobbying team is working for us now.

Congress will be in session July 20 to August 8. In this session it is their intention to deliver the 4th and final COVID-19 Relief Bill. There will most likely be no more federal relief. Our industry needs two important items: Another round of PPP and a system of low interest long term loans, or Grants. Both items have been on the table and in discussion for weeks. There is bipartisan support for both, and all parties seem to indicate something will be worked out. This is meant to be targeted to only those industries that are still impacted and have no other way of survival. This is focused at Leisure and Hospitality, which we sit inside of. Restaurants, hotels, bars, gyms, and others also sit in this focused area.

There are two other issues of interest to all of us, but several other much larger industries are fighting those fights. Both Liability Indemnity and extension of Enhanced Unemployment are needed items going forward. Again, the popular theme on the street in DC is that some form of both of those will indeed be delivered. We leave those fights to others and focus on our two needs. The word on the street seems to have the Enhanced Unemployment to possibly end up in the $400 per week area, through the end of 2020.

As we begin this campaign what each of us needs to do is simple. One last time we need to e-mail our congresspeople and Senators and make the final ask. Here is a PDF letter from NAMM to send to your Senators as an attachment. You will also cut and past the letter text below to use as the body of your letter.

[Begin Template Text]

Dear (fill in Senator and/or staffer name):

I write to bring your attention to challenges facing the live event industry and to urge the inclusion of targeted relief for the industry as Congress considers additional coronavirus relief measures this month.

Live event venues were among the first to close and will likely be the last to reopen. Workers in the live event sector were among the first to have their jobs disrupted, and they will be among the last to return to their jobs. By its very nature, live events work cannot be done from home. In recent decades, a significant and growing share of employment and economic activity has come from the business of “getting people together.” Live event venues — many of which are owned by local governments – generate millions in tax revenue and sustain jobs in communities across the country. Restaurants, hotels, retail stores, and other local businesses also directly benefit from the hundreds of millions of concerts, theater, festival, fair and eventgoers who attend millions of events each year. Events, both commercial and nonprofit, are central to our individual and collective identity. Live performance venues and the artists and workers in the industry are the lifeblood of the cultural and social identity of our neighborhoods. Social distancing, capacity limitations and other restrictions mean that the live event industry will not recover in any meaningful way until next year, and likely not until summer or later. It is impossible to operate in a viable manner at low capacity.

We appreciate the leadership Congress has shown by providing vital, short-term assistance with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), expanding unemployment insurance eligibility to “gig” workers and the self-employed, and extending other relief. Businesses such as the live event industry that are facing prolonged closure, however, need additional help.

Due to the unique circumstances of our industry, we support industry-specific federal assistance through payroll support, tax relief, and loan guarantees. Allowing the hardest hit businesses with demonstrated losses to receive a second PPP loan would help, as would the bipartisan “RESTART Act” (S. 3814), which proposes seven-year, low-interest loans with deferred interest and principal repayments.


Title, company
City, state

[End Template Text]

Unlike in the past, we have provided here a list of the e-mails of the Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for every Senator. It is of the utmost importance that you contact the Senators this way, as the e-mail to the Chief of Staff and Legislative Director is the shortest route. For the Congresspeople, you will need to enter via their general portal found at You will then need to cut and paste the above letter into the box provided. It is critical you contact your Senators and Congresspeople as soon as is possible. We need the weight of this communication to arrive with our leaders before Monday. In this way, we will have made thousands of unified asks for the much-needed relief. Our strength is in numbers. Provide this letter to every friend, employees, associate, client, or other entity or person you can. Today through Sunday we are assaulting the beach at Normandy as we begin our push to victory.

To end on a positive note, two potential vaccines, Moderna mRNA 1273 and AstraZeneca AZN1222 both released phenomenal news in the last 24 hours. Both have had significant positive results. Both have indicated a possibility of a vaccine this year. Moderna has said as early as November, and AstraZeneca has said possibly by September. You can go online and read the details, but both have released very promising news which would translate into a quicker opening for everything, including the Live Event Industry.

I want to thank all of you for what you do, and for your dedication and effort. It has been phenomenal. I will keep you updated as several of us continue to work behind the scenes in the next few weeks. There is no task more important at this moment. This is all to assist the people and the companies. Without the people, there are no companies. Each one of you is important. Do not forget all of this is available to freelance workers as well as W2 people.

Thank you all very much and let us push onto victory in 2020.

Michael T. Strickland
Bandit Lites

And don't forget to call these swine- dose them with reality and make YOUR voice heard. They work for us, after all.
Elected officials seem to forget that THEY are the hired help, and it's a temp position at that.
Elected officials seem to forget that THEY are the hired help, and it's a temp position at that.
The Okla Governor may present us with the sweet smell of schadenfreude in the morning if he's hospitalized with his Covid infection. I noted how quick he was to say he didn't get it in Tulsa at the Drumphy Rally.

ps. I don't know how political advertising is in the OKC/TUL markets but here the Rubepublikaans are running on the "more conservative than thou" platform and espousing deeper allegiance to Drumph than the other candidates. One senate candidate even re-animated the body of former Sen Bob (but I'm not dead yet!) Dole for an endorsement video clip.

The clown car is driving in circles while former working folks are left to twist in the wind.

edit ps. In one of the web meetings I have been in this week I heard the employment impact of *entertainment, productions, live events, conventions, etc* is approximately 12 million people (there is probably overlap with sports, broadcasting and Houses of Worship). In 2019 there were approximately 130 million people aged 16 and up, working or actively seeing work so about 9% of USA workers derived some or all of their income because of live events with proximate audiences, movie and TV production, etc. The live event industry is worth about $18 billion in the USA and sports/broadcast is more money yet. We may not be manufacturers or Silicon Valley hot shots but entertaining and amusing people, getting food & drink for people... all together are big money and represent quality of life issues for the folks who have remained actively working. When the public can learn "heel" and to wear their masks, maybe we can let them out again.. but until the public, enabled by both desire and politics, learns its lessons, we are not going back to work in Q3, likely not Q4. If you want some really grim news:

So yeah, send that email, follow it up with a letter, and have some answers ready if you should get a call from the Congress-critter's office. We're all screwed, think of any government help as the reach-around.
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I've been writing to my Senators about this. Two days ago I got a call from someone on Sherrod Brown's staff. There was some boilerplate about how the Senator supports the arts, blah, blah, blah, but on the whole it was a thoughtful conversation. He had obviously read, not just skimmed, my email, was conversant with my points, and had a general understanding of the difficulties confronting anything event-related. So we are not just firing off messages into a black hole!
He did mention that phone calls are helpful, particularly phone calls to Republicans who are generally less inclined to spend money on bleeding-heart stuff like the arts. (My words, not his.) He also mentioned that messages from people in business carry more weight than messages from individual citizens, so use your corporate signature, particularly if it has something like "manager" or "owner" in the title.

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