COVID-19 Causes Live Music to Hit a Low Note


DES MOINES, Iowa — Musicians across the country began cancelling their traveling shows in March when COVID-19 became widespread. In turn, music venues are having a tough time booking acts to play. Local venues and musicians are now having to get creative just to get by.

“We’re still not out of the woods. Nobody really is,” said Erik Brown, co-owner of Lefty’s Live Music in Des Moines.

Des Moines’ Vaudeville Mews looks like it is frozen in a time before COVID-19 with band posters advertising shows in March of 2020. The venue is still closed today.

While Wooly’s is open again, it has replaced its band posters with advertisements for voting.

Even though Lefty’s is open again, there aren’t any bands touring to help bring in customers.

“There’s no bands touring, so that took 70% off the table of what we do. There’s a lot of local music, but you can only go through so much,” Brown said.

But even some local musicians don’t want to perform live.

“I just can’t imagine somebody coming to a show and getting sick or giving it to their parents. And my type of performances are the most un-social distance thing,” said Patrick Tape Fleming of the band Gloom Balloon. “I’m hardly ever on the stage. I’m always in the audience singing in peoples’ faces and dancing with them.”

Gloom Balloon dropped a new album on Friday. Sioux City Band SAUL has a new album out in October. Both bands said, on any other year, they would be gearing up for a tour right now.

“Half the job of supporting an album is being on tour and getting it out there and playing it live,” said Blake Bedsaul, SAUL’s lead singer.

In order to pay the bills, bands have been getting creative.

“We were lucky enough to have the couple of shows we did just to keep afloat and a couple live streams,” Bedsaul said.

Gloom Balloon even made a visual album.

“We filmed a multi-camera performance, and it’s going to be more like a film instead of just like a concert in the studio we actually recorded the album and so anybody who pre-ordered our record … they’re going to get access to have a live streaming party and then they will get access to that one-hour film and just watch it whenever they want to kind of thing so,” Fleming said.

But these virtual options of live music don’t really help out local music venues.

“We’re creating a new business model daily. We’re starting over. We’ve been here for five and a half years and we are redoing our business model saying, how do we survive, and then how can we go back to the business we were for five years?” Brown said.

Lefty’s in the Drake Neighborhood has leased part of its building to a retail business just to bring in more money.


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