A events industry petition started by Digerati Productions is growing awareness—and could help us survive the crisis.
The live events industry generates $325 billion of direct spending in the U.S. and helps support more than 5.9 million jobs with $248 billion of labor income, according to an Oxford Economics and Events Industry Council study in 2018. Yet, few people recognize its scope and how hard-hit it has been by the coronavirus crisis. An events industry petition started by Isaac Rothwell, national director of operations, Digerati Productions, aims to do something about that
On March 12, Rothwell posted the petition and began a grassroots effort to reach out to the many industry participants, including meeting planners, A/V technicians, stagehands, audio engineers and countless other small business owners. Eight days later, the petition has 340,000 signatures. “We were met with a groundswell of support and people asking how they could help further our efforts,” he said.
“We saw a need to create a voice for ourselves,” he adds. “It is hard because so many related industries and professions are impacted when live events do not happen.”
Many small businesses in the events industry do not fit the mold of the normal bank lending system, Rothwell said. “We are looking for things like employee retention grants and ways to funnel money to employees with minimal red tape.”
Among the other potential remedies the petition cites are emergency health insurance, low-interest federally backed liquidity loans, the ability to submit canceled contracts as a 2020 tax loss, and the ability to provide benefits to 1099 self-employed individuals to cover lost income.
“We need to be on the radar of the President and legislators as they are making policy,” said Rothwell. “Our industry cannot survive with this huge amount of uncertainty, and businesses will need us when the economy starts to bounce back.”
The effort has grown to include a web site where individuals are invited to post stories about the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses and their lives. Plus, volunteers have formed working committees to create press releases and spearhead advocacy efforts to politicians, said Rothwell.
To document the impact on companies and individuals in the industry, Elite Core Audio fielded a survey that received over 1,000 responses. About 29 percent of responding companies anticipate facing bankruptcy or closing operations and 43 percent foresee the need to liquidate assets. On average, companies’ responsive actions to the canceled events include layoffs of 84 percent of all contract labor and 53 percent of full-time workers.