How to support the arts in Summit County during the coronavirus shutdown
FRISCO — Numerous springtime events were canceled around the county to stop the spread of COVID-19 when the novel coronavirus became a pandemic. Arts organizations, venues and artists themselves are postponing and rescheduling what they can for when stay-at-home orders are lifted and life returns to a sense of normalcy. However, the monetary effects from nonessential businesses shutting down already has been felt.
The Americana trio Steel Betty from Austin, Texas, was supposed to perform last Friday, March 27, at Summit Middle School for students and later in the evening at a residence for the general public. It is one of 12 shows that the band has canceled so far, which is a little more than half of the group’s touring season, according to guitarist David McDonald.
McDonald said touring makes up roughly two-thirds of the band’s total income, with the remaining 27% coming from performances in Texas and 7% from album and merchandise sales. However, being independent artists, almost 100% of those sales go directly to the band.
In addition to purchasing music and clothing, McDonald said the best way to support the band during these times is following its social media channels. Those numbers act as the band’s “stock market value,” said McDonald, that will help them land future gigs.
Breckenridge Music, the host and organizer of Steel Betty’s local performances, is trying to reschedule the group’s appearance for the upcoming school year. Along with that postponement, the nonprofit canceled two other March concerts, a piano trio performance of Gershwin and Schumann music and The Del McCoury Band at the Riverwalk Center.
So far, Breck Music’s summer lineup and festival haven’t been canceled. The organization has multiple contingency scenarios, but it hopes the shows can go on after the outbreak ends.
“We celebrate our shared humanity through music and through the arts, and when we emerge through the crisis, we’ll need our musicians in the community — and across the country — and the venues here and the arts organizations to really reconnect and bring everyone back together to celebrate,” said Tamara Nuzzaci Park, Breck Music’s executive director.
Nuzzaci Park said Breck Music’s roughly $1 million budget will feel the effects of the coronavirus even though there were only three events that didn’t happen. The festival and other classical events are about 80% funded by individual donors such as businesses and foundations while the Presents series — the more modern concerts by acts like Ani DiFranco and Lyle Lovett — try to break even with ticket sales.
All ticketed purchases are guaranteed, so Nuzzaci Park is asking patrons to hold on to them for rescheduled shows while tickets for canceled shows can either be fully refunded or turned into a tax-deductible donation.
“For the classical concert, about 90% of our patrons did give back their tickets as a donation, so we’re very grateful for that,” Nuzzaci Park said.
Other ways to support Breck Music are to buy tickets to summer concerts now or to join Applause, a volunteer membership group that annually raises about 20% of Breck Music’s budget via various activities. Memberships are $50 and donors receive vouchers to classical concerts, an invitation to a membership picnic and other benefits.
Meanwhile at one of Summit County’s major music venues, 10 Mile Music Hall canceled 16 shows — six of which were sellouts — as of March 24, and according to co-owner Todd Altschuler that month and a half of revenue would have been roughly six figures.
Touring bands earn the majority of ticket sales and the bar turns a profit for the venue.
“I don’t think that’s the case everywhere, but the bands that we bring in usually play bigger venues,” said Altschuler, whose music hall has a capacity of about 750 people. “We do this because this is who people want to see around here, and we definitely still pay them what they would make at some other venues though we’re a lot smaller.”
They’ve been able to reschedule Anders Osborne and Jackie Greene for August and St. Anthony Summit Medical Center Health Foundation’s Kentucky Derby fundraiser for September, yet the future for the music industry is murky.
“It’s very fluid right now,” he said. “Even if life gets back to normal, I do not believe you are going to see the festivals and big gatherings get back to normal as soon.
“Some of the music industry is really bracing for a four-, six-, eight-month shutdown for events. … That takes shows at Red Rocks or Dillon Amphitheater out of the question and bands can’t afford to tour if they don’t have those.”
10 Mile now has a shutdown relief fund to which people can donate money now for redeemable items in the future. It starts at $50 for 10 drink vouchers and goes all the way up to $1,000 to rent the space for a holiday party or $10,000 for a 10-year pass to all 10 Mile shows. The venue is also considering streaming a concert, but the details have yet to be finalized.
Breck Film Fest already has made the digital transition by streaming “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band” for its Summit Film Society, and other similar virtual events may be in the works.
“Summit Film Society is one of our larger revenue streams throughout the year based on what we make per event,” said Ashley Hughes, marketing and development manager for Breck Film Fest. “I don’t foresee the streaming platforms being able to compete with how much we bring in with those, and that’s OK, because if we’re spending less we can make less — at least for the next few months.”
Yet they might also cancel or postpone the rest of the society screenings through August, in addition to the three events already canceled, to save funds for September’s Breckenridge Film Festival. Even that is up in the air as Hughes and the staff consider different options to possibly make some or all of it digital.
To support Breck Film, people can become a Summit Film Society member, a Gold Ticket Club member or make a straight donation to the nonprofit. Summit Film Society memberships cost $90 per person or $170 for a couple, though most people purchase a Gold Ticket Club membership, which is $250 for individuals or $400 for two, since it includes a society memberships in addition to other perks.
“We have about 45 members, and that goes to financing everything from staff salaries to our office rent to how we pay for licensing fees for the films that we’re showing,” Hughes said.
One of those three canceled events was the nonprofit’s annual fundraising gala scheduled to be held at Beaver Run Resort. Hughes said the goal was to net $35,000 to $40,000, or about 20% of their operating budget. For comparison, the memberships comprise about 5% to 8% of Breck Film’s budget.
“Breck Film understands everyone is in a tight predicament,” Hughes said. “Anything that people are able to contribute to the arts at this time, we appreciate. If not, we completely understand.”
Though all are feeling the economic pinch and are uncertain about the future, they agree officials have been working in the public’s best interest.
“Hopefully, everyone understands that this could get bad without them staying in,” Altschuler said about the stay-at-home order. “The doctors and everyone are doing what they think is best to save human life. … I think our government did a really good job of putting people’s health in front of everything else. … For them to stem what could have been disastrous for this community, I really appreciate that, first and foremost, before anything else.”
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