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Michael T. Strickland’s Statement on Production Companies Road to Recovery

USA – Bandit Lites chair and founder, Michael T. Strickland, has the following to say regarding the effect on COVID-19 on the live entertainment industry:

“I have been engaged since 14 March with senators Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn, as well as others, on the crafting, alteration and details of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act, focusing on the Payroll Protection Program. I have read and commented on every aspect of the two legislations all along the way. I have been working to assure that all people affected as we are in the live entertainment industry are taken care of.

“I have also served on the board of directors of The University of Tennessee Medical Center for 14 years. In that role, I am as educated as possible from a lay person’s point of view on the current COVID-19 situation. We have daily emails, calls and communications with facts and figures about the COVID-19 situation.

“The first thing we must all understand is that live entertainment stands at the end of the reopening line. The reason for that is simple: our industry requires a large number of people to gather in the same place. There is not a muted version of a live show that will work economically for the production industry. While artists may be able to deliver shows with small crowds, that model would cause the production dollars spent to be minimal at best, and none of us can survive on small income streams. Most other industries like restaurants, gyms, churches, schools, stores and others can open with limited patrons allowed in. Live events simply do not work that way.

“I have identified the 500-pound gorillas that will drive the return of large crowds: college football, The NFL, NASCAR, AEG and Live Nation. The collective push by these five powerful entities will help in getting the production industry back in business. When all five of these succeed in getting large crowd assembly okayed, I believe we will begin to work.

“After a lot of conversations with those associated with those entities, I now know that the NFL, college football and NASCAR are all working toward a model with their events being held to empty stadiums and tracks being televised on TV and streaming services, which will provide them some income. Thus, they have a landing strip made available earlier than concerts and special events.

“While we will befit from those three industries re-emerging, they can and will deliver a product to empty facilities for some time frame. Live Nation and AEG are almost as reliant on large crowds as we are in the production industry. So are all the other promoters, and there are a lot of them. Thus, each of us needs to do all we can to have conversations with as many people as we can about the start of the economy. Once the opening begins, live events are 4 to 20 weeks behind that, and no one really knows how long that will be.

“All of this is contingent on the medical situation. There are four major conditions that control our return to work. Medical, economic, social and political. We all know that until it is medically safe to open up live events, it will not happen.

“The medical situation will be a tough one to agree on, as people have varied opinions and there appears to be a direct correlation between your medical opinion and your pay cheque. Those who favour a long shutdown tend to have a job that pays them either way. Most politicians are paid all the time, and a decision to shut down for six months or a year does not affect them. Members of congress are paid $174K a year regardless of a shutdown. Most of the talking heads in the media are also in very economically secure jobs. We are all affected by our direct economic need.

The economic situation is the second condition. I feel we can all agree that almost everyone has checked this box, as the economic situation requires we open as soon as possible.

“The social situation comes next. As we will all have different thoughts about when to open, we will in the coming weeks move into two groups: “Open Now” verses “Do Not Open Now.” None of us know how many people will be in which group in the coming weeks, but we can agree that at some point soon there will those two distinct groups. Most likely there will be no opening of live events until an overwhelming percentage of people are in the “Open Now” category. This decision is a very personal one, and it also depends on your individual point of view of the current medical situation.

“Lastly is the political situation as to when will a politician stand up and say open now? There will be a political price to pay no matter which way a politician goes. Most politicians will temper their decision with the political cost to them and this may be the biggest impediment to the reopening of large events. Even if all the medical, economic and social situations are in a place that indicates having live events, a very small number of political leaders will have the final say so.

“Let us assume that the public is in a place where the medical, economic and social situations all point to being able to hold large public gatherings; it will still be political leaders giving the final green light to making live events a reality again.

“It is my opinion that the economic and social situations will arrive at the “Open Now” decision first. I also believe that most people will eventually feel that the medical situation should allow large gatherings but that does not mean the political situation will approve large crowds. The best thing that each of us can do is pay constant attention to the medical situation, and then, when you feel it is right, communicate with your various political leaders your thoughts. There is strength in numbers in this situation.

“In the world of politics, politicians will often follow the will of the largest group of people. If the medical, economic and social will is to reopen and then allow large crowds, at some point the politicians will agree and the Live Event industry can and will go back to work. As I started this out, the medical situation must be that it is safe to open. The 64-thousand-dollar question is exactly what is “medically safe”?

“Pay attention to the medical situation. Rely only on the CDC for your data and do not be impacted by the various media plays that attempt to attract eyeballs, clicks and such. The CDC and your State Department of Health will provide you with an accurate assessment of the facts.

“Communicate early and often with your local, state and federal leaders. Let them know your situation and your needs. On March 15 as I spoke with various Congressional leaders, I discovered they thought that we in live entertainment had contracts and would be paid through cancellations. After a lot of conversation, they came to understand that the live entertainment industry went to zero income that Friday. Each day I discover that few people understand that live entertainment production firms and their people are sitting at zero income.

“Write to your political leaders. Post it on all of your social media. Do it often. Talk about it. Get the word out every day. There are millions of great people in this industry. The strength of communicating directly with your political leaders as well as on all forms of social media can be enormous, but only if you all do it.

“Thank you for listening and please know this will end and we will be back!”

Michael T. Strickland


16th April 2020

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