Independent music venues look to Lansing for assistance amid pandemic

#saveMIstages campaign launched in hopes of economic relief

Michigan businesses are slowly starting to reopen, but there are still many businesses that haven’t seen a dime of revenue since March.

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan businesses are slowly starting to reopen, but there are still many businesses that haven’t seen a dime of revenue since March.

The music industry has been hit particularly hard with smaller players hanging on for dear life. Some are even looking to state officials for help.

For generations, Detroit’s music scene has been unique. Many stars -- from Motown to Bob Seeger, Big Sean, Madonna, Kid Rock, Jack White and Eminem -- became big names playing big venues, but the smaller venues have fostered an ongoing business and culture that’s in danger of disappearing.

The Aretha Franklin Amphitheater, formerly known as Chene Park, is a city-owned summertime, waterfront gem enjoyed by Metro Detroit for years.

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After six months of closure due to the pandemic silencing performances, the venue is in peril. The city contracts its operation to The Right Productions, whose CEO said coronavirus’ “economic impact is catastrophic.”

The Right Productions CEO Shahida Mausi is part of the National Independent Venue Association. In May, the organization estimated 90% of independent venues nationwide could close down permanently due to COVID-19.

There are more than 80 Michigan venues that are a part of NIVA, most are in Metro Detroit. These independent venues asked the federal government for assistance and didn’t receive any. Frustrated, now Mausi and her friends are looking to Lansing for help.

“There are venues in this state that are allowed to have more than 100 people and they’re indoors. We’re outdoors, fresh air, nine acres, 6,000 seats and we can only have 100 people?”" Mausi asked.

NIVA said it needs about $10 million for the more than 80 independent venues across the state to stay afloat.

State Rep. Rebekah Warren, of Ann Arbor, decided to try and find the money.

"If Detroit Rock City -- the heart of Motown that still beats in our state -- can’t be one of the ones who stop and say, ‘We’ve got to do something to protect this cherished set of our economy in our state,’ who’s gonna step up and do it?” Warren asked.

The state budget had already been passed and the dust is still settling on where to find $10 million. Warren believes there are grant or loan programs that can be tapped for this purpose.

More: Reopening Michigan updates

About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.