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10 Mile Music Hall struggles to stay afloat, refund tickets

Independent venues push for government relief

A crowd listens to The Infamous Stringdusters on Dec. 28, 2018, inside the 10 Mile Music Hall in Frisco. Independent venues across the country, such as 10 Mile, are struggling to survive during the pandemic.
Hugh Carey / hcarey@summitdaily.com

FRISCO — While some businesses are seeing an uptick in commerce as health restrictions loosen, others are still dead in the water. Independent music venues were among the first establishments to close due to the coronavirus pandemic and they likely will be the last to fully reopen until there is a vaccine.

The Troubadour in Los Angeles — which had acts like Elton John, Neil Young and Johnny Cash grace its stage over the years — is just one iconic venue that could close for good as well as Frisco’s 10 Mile Music Hall.

“Our situation is dire,” said Chris Thompson, chief financial officer of 10 Mile Music Hall. Thompson said they lost “hundreds of thousands of dollars” having postponed 20 shows since the pandemic hit during the venue’s busy March season.

The venue is willing to refund ticket holders who can’t make the new dates, whenever those might be, yet while older or larger venues might have had the reserves to swiftly refund tickets, the 2-year-old 10 Mile isn’t so fortunate. 10 Mile still has to pay expenses like rent and insurance as if it was fully operational even though there has been limited to no revenue these past four months.

“What working capital we did have laying around dissipated when we lost our spring concert calendar,” Thompson said.

Thompson likened the business’s cash flow to a now frozen game of musical chairs. Though it varies from concert to concert, he said money moves from the ticket buyer and is then split among promoters, venues, management, agents and artists as money is spent on deposits, rentals, travel and marketing. 

Once the concert happens, it triggers a clearinghouse with the funds being transferred to the respective parties as 10 Mile earns its income from the bar.

“But when the music stops, some people want to leave the party, some people want to stay at the party, some people are stuck at the party,” Thompson said. “But if you just start to pull pieces out, it’s just not that clear where that money or piece comes from.”

Shelley Cooke was planning to fly from New York to Colorado to see the jam band moe. at 10 Mile for her husband’s birthday the weekend of March 19. Now, she’s holding onto concert and ski tickets she spent over $700 on and waiting for a refund. Cooke hasn’t had her airfare refunded yet either, but she has seen money given back from other events like Broadway shows.

“I understand that they’re in a world of hurt,” Cooke said. “My husband is a chef, and he’s been out of work for a lot of this time, and we’re still not sure what the heck is going to happen in the future.”

If it weren’t for the dollar amount, she said she would donate the cost of the tickets. She explained that she’s mostly upset about the venue’s poor communication as she was told in March that refunds would be processed starting April 6. 

10 Mile admits that announcing a hard date that quickly was a bad idea.

“As a company, we mismanaged that communication based on a bad assessment of the reality of COVID,” Thompson said. A mea culpa was posted on 10 Mile’s Facebook page July 14 explaining its financial situation.

Dear Music Fans,First, we’d like to thank you for your ongoing support and patience as we deal with the COVID closure…

Posted by 10 Mile Music Hall on Tuesday, July 14, 2020

On that post, fans like Travis Lawson of Boulder commented they were fine with donating the ticket costs. He bought eight $25 tickets to phAb 4 and said it was expendable income with or without the concert happening. He said he understood the postponement wasn’t any one party’s fault. He’s donated other tickets to canceled events like the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and did it to support the industry.

“Knowing that when we come out of this, I will have a great music venue in Frisco that I can go to, and I’ve gone to before, is worth way more than a couple hundred dollars,” Lawson said in an interview.

Aside from donated tickets, a relief fund and pursuing investors, 10 Mile is getting by with streaming shows and events like Concerts Not in the Park. Yet Thompson said it isn’t viable in the long-term. 

“If we are operating at capacity every day, which we can’t, we could just almost make rent,” Thompson said. “That’s assuming no rain days and people sit on the patio seven days a week, which they don’t.”

10 Mile has turned to relying on government help to survive; however, Thompson said they were denied an economic income disaster loan and are currently appealing the decision. 

“We’re still optimistic that the (economic income disaster loan) money will come,” Thompson said. “… We expect by the fall that we’ll have a much better idea as far as rescheduling and our ability to put on a concert or refund the money to ticket holders.”

According to a survey of National Independent Venue Association members, which includes 10 Mile Music Hall, 90% of independent venues said they will close permanently in a few months without federal funding. The association is pushing Congress for aid, and on Wednesday, July 22, Sens. John Cornyn and Amy Klobuchar introduced the “Save Our Stages Act,” which would provide grant support to venues like 10 Mile.


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