Most event planners are somewhat familiar with the Live Events Coalition, but how much do you really know about its efforts to help the industry recover? For those of you who don’t know, the Live Events Coalition is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization founded in response to the pandemic’s impact on the live events industry. Remarkably, it is run entirely by volunteers. Its mission is to provide resources, advocacy, and a supportive network that connects businesses and individuals in the event industry and beyond. The Live Events Coalition exists not only to help event businesses and employees, but their attendees as well.
Although small businesses were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as a whole, the effects on the live event industry were uniquely devastating. The restrictions on live events due to public safety concerns caused such extensive losses that the industry is now expected to lose up to 80% of revenue. Because COVID-19 constituted a collective crisis, the live event industry has faded into the background of more generalized concerns for small businesses as a whole. This observation is not meant to minimize the urgent need for policies and legislation that comes to the aid of all small businesses. It is simply meant to highlight the fact that the extreme challenges faced by the live event industry.
Amplifying Voices and Advocating for Change
Because live events presented one of the biggest threats to public safety at the height of the pandemic, they were all but completely shut down during the first several months of COVID-19. Those events that did take place did so at significantly reduced capacity in compliance with the social distancing protocol. Social distancing, quite simply, a matter of life and death.
Therefore, the needs of the live event industry are urgent and imperative. There are only a few more weeks left until the presidential election takes place, and the Coalition is acting to make sure the industry’s collective needs are heard- and hopefully addressed. In July, the Coalition asked Congress for the following relief:
An updated and improved EIDL, PPP, and PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) program
The ability to reapply for the above assistance if needed
Easier, more straightforward access to SBA 7(a) funding
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the above terms, let’s go over them briefly. In previous articles about how the CARES Act could help small business owners, we explained that PPP loans were designed to incentivize businesses to keep employees on the payroll. PPP loans are no longer available, but SBA is still accepting new EIDL applications for qualifying small businesses. The EIDL program is essentially a grant designed to provide economic relief to businesses that are experiencing a temporary loss of revenue due to COVID-19. EIDL grants do not have to be repaid. Small business owners can also still apply for a low-interest loan due to COVID-19.
The Live Events Coalition reminds us that the pandemic didn’t only hit event planners; it also put live event employees such as photographers and videographers, caterers, suppliers, transportation workers, ushers, and other live event and venue staff out of work. The Coalition continues to ask for extended unemployment assistance and updated PPE and EIDL programs.
“Empty Events” Put a Needy Industry Centerstage
You may or may not have heard about the “Empty Event” hosted by the Coalition at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The goal of this strategic non-event? To show the world- namely the White House, which is in plain view of the mall- the complex teamwork, resources, and expenses that go into creating the seemingly larger-than-life magnificence of live events. The “event”, complete with 48 tables and a state-of-the-art podium where a resounding emptiness loomed centerstage, quite literally showcased the work that goes into event planning.
Nancy Shaffer, founder and CEO of BRAVO! Events and president of the coalition’s board, makes an interesting point which has been echoed by others: Few people understand how much work goes into planning an event because it happens behind the scenes. The enjoyment and media-grabbing attention is focused on the attendee experience, not the work that goes into creating it. Nor do we commonly take note of the sometimes twenty-odd vendors that are employed to pull off live events. Think photographers, videographers, graphic designers, technical teams, decorators, florists, and many more. The list goes on and on; a memorable, immersive live event requires near constant communication between event planners, vendors, and venue owners in the weeks before it takes place.
As Schaffer emphasizes, the “Empty Event” was designed “to showcase and remind people that an event doesn’t just magically appear. That there are these extremely talented and highly skilled and trained professionals that build this”.
Similar staged events have taken place in New York, Nashville, and Dallas. Such stunning visual representations of the devastation and abandonment facing the live event industry have been powerful eye-openers.
Speaking of powerful eye-openers, the Live Event Coalition knows as well as anyone else that visuals spread like wildfire on the internet. In July, the Coalition created a social media campaign called “What We Miss”. Essentially, they asked industry professionals to share a two-image post; one post was meant to showcase what the public missed about attending live events, and the other showed what producers missed about creating them. The objective was to amplify the urgent message that the industry needed more financial support from the next stimulus package.
Petitioning for a Federal Aid Package to Benefit ALL Live Event Workers
Through Change.org, the Coalition is currently asking for signatures on a petition to Donald J. Trump, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives. The petition asks for an adequate Federal Aid Package of the Events Industry. It pleads that “limiting the spread of the virus is the only way to slow and mitigate its massive health and financial impact on our nation”. The petition points out that the events industry has essentially sacrificed itself to save lives by complying with the social distancing order. As a result, “families are already facing a long list of economic catastrophes: losing our homes, retirements, being able to pay bills, extreme debt/bankruptcy, providing food for our children, and paying for much-needed health insurance”.
What exactly would be included in the Federal Aid Package?
Family stabilization, including “legislation and policy directives to immediately stabilize Live Events workers and families at 90% of their expected household income for 2020 through subsidies and other generalized benefits for Live Events workers, including 1099 Freelancers and Contractors”
Health insurance, including “Legislation and policy directives to address Live Events workers and families who lost health coverage through layoffs and furloughs; or are being extended employer funded coverage during furlough but have an inability to pay employee share. Further, upon reemployment, we ask that insurance coverage be reinstated immediately, with no waiting periods or limitations to preexisting conditions. Finally, we call for any and all bridge remedies, including but not limited to expanded emergency Medicaid for Live Events workers.
Economic Stabilization and Development, including “800 billion for a “Live Events Industry and Stabilization and Development Fund” to be allocated over 8 months directly to businesses whose primary revenue source is derived from the business of live events. We propose this fund administer grants to businesses for workforce retention to spawn innovation and organizational advancement through technology and workforce development. These Innovation and Stabilization Grants ensure that businesses of all sizes can recover from catastrophic revenue loss due to imposed shut down of the live events industry, ensuring actualization of 80% for expected net income over the affected months.
The organization is run by volunteers, but membership fees go toward their communications and government relations campaign. In short, the small fees go toward gaining exposure to policymakers who control the decision-making that can make or break the live event industry. For more information, go to Petition · Covid-19 Federal Aid Package for the Live Events ...
The petition goes into detail about estimated amounts that might be allocated for specific needs in order for families and the industry to realistically recover from COVID-19. If you’re aghast at what a far cry these stipulations are from the reality of what event businesses are afforded under current policies, you’re not alone. We see you and want to help amplify your fight for survival. We will continue to share the valuable experiences and insights we gain from event professionals and small business owners; we are also committed to continually bringing you ideas and resources for adapting your business to these changing times. Please stay connected for more of the latest and perspectives that are shaping the industry as we survive, one day at a time.
And expect to see more on the Live Events Coalition and what they’re up to as the election approaches!