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[STRONGER TOGETHER ]

[00:00:06]

AUSTIN, TEXAS HAS A WELL-EARNED REPUTATION AS A MUSIC CITY WITH MAJOR OUTDOOR MUSIC FESTIVALS AND A VIBRANT RESTAURANT AND CLUB SCENE.

AUSTIN HAS BEEN AMONG THE FASTEST GROWING CITIES IN THE UNITED STATES FOR THE LAST DECADE.

THEN THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC CHANGED EVERYTHING.

WE SPOKE WITH OUR HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY COMMUNITY TO GAIN A BETTER SENSE OF THE IMPACTS AND HOW TO BEST SUPPORT EACH OTHER.

COMING OUT OF THIS, I HAD SOME REALLY EXCITING PROJECTS IN THE WORKS, UM, AND THEY ALL INVOLVED GATHERING PEOPLE TOGETHER IN JANUARY OF 2020, RELATIVE TO JANUARY OF 2019, WE GREW 107%.

WE GET TO 2020.

I SAW THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY BOOMI TO THE POINT THAT IT COULD BE ARGUED THAT IT WAS, IT WAS SUPER SATURATED WITH RESTAURANTS.

UM, 2019 WAS PROBABLY THE BEST YEAR WE HAD EVER HAD AT, AT ALL THE LOCATIONS 2020 WAS LOOKING VERY GOOD.

IN FACT, IT, IT STARTED OFF LIKE, UH, NO YEAR IN, IN, IN MY ENTIRE CAREER PRE PANDEMIC, EVERYTHING WAS LOOKING PRETTY GOOD.

I WAS WORKING VERY STEADY AND HAD THREE DIFFERENT REGULAR GIGS.

I WAS ALWAYS DOING FOR 2020.

THE OUTLOOK WAS VERY, VERY, VERY PROMISING.

YEAH.

PRE PANDEMIC.

YOU KNOW, WE HAD THE BENEFIT OF BEING THE LIVE MUSIC CAPITAL OF THE WORLD.

SO WE HAVE A REAL THRIVING MUSIC ECONOMY HERE IN AUSTIN, TEXAS, OF COURSE, WITH THAT SUCCESS HAS COME TO THE CHALLENGE OF RAPID GROWTH IN THIS CITY, WHICH IS EXPRESS PROBABLY MOST OBVIOUSLY WITH THE AFFORDABILITY.

THE PANDEMIC REALLY HIT AUSTIN BACK IN MARCH OF 2020.

SO WE WERE THE FIRST DOMINO, UH, THAT JUST KIND OF TRICKLED DOWN TO SO MANY OTHER MUSIC VENUES AND FESTIVALS AND, AND ANY LARGE CROWD GATHERING TYPE OF EVENTS IN, IN THE WORLD.

WE HAD A LITTLE OVER A HUNDRED FOLKS WORKING FOR US WHEN THE PANDEMIC STARTED OUT.

AND, YOU KNOW, WE KEPT EVERYBODY ON PAYROLL, I THINK FOR AROUND A MONTH AND A HALF WHILE WE WERE TRYING TO FIGURE IT OUT, TO SEE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN WITH, YOU KNOW, KIND OF GOVERNMENT FUNDING AND STUFF LIKE THAT.

WE WENT FROM, YOU KNOW, GETTING A LITTLE OVER A HUNDRED DOWN TO 30 FOLKS.

THIS CAN'T BE MISSED IS THE STRESS, THE OMNIPRESENT STRESS THAT'S CONSTANTLY PUSHING DOWN ON, ON OUR INDUSTRY RIGHT NOW.

UH, AND IT'S, IT'S, IT'S BEEN ON TOP OF US FOR A YEAR.

YOU HAVE TO GET THIS OFF YOUR MIND.

OTHERWISE YOU'RE GOING TO SCREW YOURSELF STRAIGHT TO THE GROUND.

AND I'VE HAD SOME WEEKS, MAN, YOU KNOW, AND IT TAKES A TOLL ON THE FAMILY TOO, THAT SOME WEEKS WHEN YOU LAY OFF 106 PEOPLE, UM, THE EMOTIONAL TOLL THAT TAKES NOT ONLY ON, BUT THE EMPLOYEES AND PEOPLE YOU'VE WORKED WITH VERMONT, WE HAD TO RESCHEDULE A TON OF SHOWS.

UH, WE STARTED RESCHEDULING UNTIL LATER IN THE YEAR, YOU KNOW, EVERYONE WAS AMBITIOUSLY NAIVE IN THE BEGINNING.

AND THEN MANY OF THOSE SHOWS GOT RESCHEDULED.

AGAIN, GOING INTO THE YEAR.

IT WAS THINGS WERE LOOKING GOOD.

I MEAN, I ALWAYS LOOKED FORWARD TO THE SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST AND ACL AND LOVE VACATION A FREE WEEK.

AND THEN JUST NORMAL WEEKENDS THAT YOU HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO GO TO ABOUT 120 DIFFERENT VENUES.

I ACTUALLY LEFT AUSTIN TO GO ON THE ROAD, NEW YEAR'S DAY, UH, WITH ERIC JOHNSON, GOT ON THE BUS AND, UH, PEOPLE STARTED CANCELING.

AND, UH, I THINK ABOUT THE SAME TIME MOST PEOPLE IN THE U S UH, REALIZED WE WERE IN DEEP TROUBLE.

COVID WHEN IT HAD HIT EVERYBODY DIFFERENTLY, QUICK SERVICE, FAST CASUAL, UM, BARS, RESTAURANTS.

WE HAD TO LAY OFF 1100 EMPLOYEES ALMOST OVERNIGHT.

AND THEN AS YOU MAY OR MAY NOT REMEMBER, WE ALL HAD THE ABILITY TO REHIRE AND REOPEN EVERYTHING AND THOUGHT THAT WAS GOING TO BE THE END OF IT.

THE LAST STAT I SAW WAS THAT WE'VE LOST 28% OF RESTAURANTS.

THERE'S A LOT GOING ON IN OUR WORLD.

AND WE REALLY WERE LOOKING FORWARD TO 2020 BEING OUR BEST YEAR.

THINGS STARTED TO GET SHAKY WHEN THE CORONAVIRUS SORT OF HAPPENING.

WELL, I AM EXTREMELY FORTUNATE IN THAT MY HUSBAND IS A MUSICIAN AND WE PLAY MUSIC TOGETHER.

WE HAVE FOR MANY YEARS ALSO, HE IS A VIDEOGRAPHER.

WE STARTED A VIDEO SERIES FROM HOME CALLED A SONG FOR YOU.

WE KIND OF PUT IT OUT THERE TO FANS, HEY, WE'RE GOING TO START RECORDING A SONG EVERY WEEK.

IT WAS JUST A GREAT WAY TO MAINTAIN THAT SENSE OF COMMUNITY WITH FANS LOCALLY, OR RECONNECT WITH FANS ALL OVER THE WORLD.

I'VE DEFINITELY HAD TO PIVOT, AND THAT WAS SUCCESSFUL FOR ME.

UH, I BASICALLY WAS ABLE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT SERVICE I REALLY PROVIDED,

[00:05:01]

AND IT WASN'T A LACK OF PERFORMANCE.

I PROVIDED AN EXPERIENCE.

I'D SAY WHAT I DID FROM LIVE TO LIVE STREAM.

I WAS ABLE TO CONTINUE TO PROSPER.

AND I'M IN THE REALITY IS 2020 WAS MY BEST YEAR BECAUSE NOW I COULD BE TWO PLACES AT THE SAME TIME FOR THOSE THAT COULD BE OUTSIDE, THEY'VE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF IT WHEREVER POSSIBLE.

AND THE CITY OF AUSTIN IS STARTED A SHOP, THE BLOCK PROGRAM THAT HAS CERTAINLY HELPED A NUMBER OF RESTAURANTS IN AUSTIN.

I WANTED SOMETHING THAT, UH, THAT COULD BE MY STUDIO.

AND I ENDED UP FINDING A HOUSE WITH A COMPLETELY SEPARATE ONE BEDROOM, WHICH SOMETIMES SERVES AS MY STUDIO AND, UH, SOMETIMES SERVES AS RENTAL INCOME.

SO THIS YEAR AT SURFING IS SERVING AS RENTAL INCOME AND, AND, UM, I HATE TO GIVE UP THE SPACE, BUT IT WAS NECESSARY.

THE VENUES AND THE NIGHTCLUBS THAT YOU WILL SEE HAVE MADE IT THROUGH THIS PANDEMIC OR THE ONES THAT WERE SUCCESSFULLY ABLE TO PIVOT STAYING ON TOP OF THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS. UM, BEING ABLE TO PIVOT INTO SELLING WHOLESALE PRODUCTS, MAYBE WE COULD START DOING SHOWS INSIDE TESTING IS INHERENTLY EXPENSIVE, BUT IT OPENS PEOPLE'S BANDWIDTH TO ACCEPT, GOING TO A SHOW SO MUCH SO THAT A GUY LIKE DAVE CHAPPELLE AND THE BIGGEST COMEDIANS LITERALLY EVER ON PLANET EARTH ARE DESCENDING ON AUSTIN, DO DO SHOWS HERE BECAUSE IT'S POSSIBLE.

I FEEL THE CHANGES THAT ARE COMING, UH, AND AT THE VERY LEAST THE PIVOT THAT WE CREATED IN THE SPRING TO HAVE THOSE SOCIALLY DISTANCE TABLES IN THE AMPHITHEATER AND MASS REQUIRED, YOU KNOW, THAT COULD BE HERE FOR SOME TIME YET IT'S NOT A LIGHT SWITCH.

ISN'T GOING TO GO OFF AND WE'RE GOING TO BE BACK TO WHERE WE WERE.

THIS IS GOING TO BE A GRADUAL PROCESS.

SO I'VE BEEN LIVING ON UNEMPLOYMENT AND WHICH I DIDN'T EVEN THINK WAS A REALITY BECAUSE I'M SELF-EMPLOYED, BUT WE NEED TO GET BACK TO WORK, YOU KNOW, BECAUSE THE OTHER THING IS THAT WE'RE IN THIS STUFF BECAUSE OF HEART AND PASSION, WE WANT TO PAY OUR BILLS, BUT WE DO THIS BECAUSE WE HAVE TO DO IT TURNING AWAY BUSINESS, UH, LIKE ALWAYS LIKE EVERY YEAR.

SO THAT CALENDAR WAS JUST FULL.

I WAS ALREADY IN THE MODE OF LIKE, THERE'S A TON OF WORK.

THERE'S A TON OF GIGS, UH, ONE SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST, PUT A HOLD AND PUT THE STOP.

EVERYBODY ELSE KIND OF FOLLOWED SUIT AND ALL THIS ENERGY THAT WAS IN RESERVE THAT I WAS GOING TO USE FOR WORK.

YOU KNOW, MY MONEYMAKING SEASON THAT I HAD THEN HAD TO RELOCATE.

I HAD TO SPEND THAT ENERGY SOMEHOW.

I CAN'T JUST SIT DOWN AND DO NOTHING.

SO I WAS WRITING AND PUBLISHING THE SONG A MONTH.

WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT ABOUT HOW TO OPERATE IN THE COVID WORLD IS AGAIN, THAT TRANSPARENCY IN TERMS OF WHAT GUIDELINES YOU'RE GOING TO BE ENFORCING, AND THEN ACTUALLY ENFORCING IT.

WE'VE ALREADY SEEN OUR INDUSTRY IMPACTED SO HORRIBLY AND WE'VE WE'VE REOPENED AND THEN GONE BACKWARDS, REOPENING, GONE BACKWARDS.

SO LET'S JUST DO THE THINGS THAT WE CAN DO THAT WE KNOW THAT WORK, YOU KNOW, ENFORCING THE MASKS AND ALL OF THAT GREATLY REDUCES TRANSMISSION.

SO IF WE JUST DO THAT AND WE DON'T HAVE TO KEEP SEEING PEOPLE LOSING THEIR JOBS OR THEIR VENUES AND CHANGING THE CULTURE OF OUR CITY, WE TOOK PART, UH, WHERE WE WERE ABLE TO SPEND THE FIRST ROUND OF PPP.

AND WE'RE GOING TO TRY TO GET THAT SECOND ROUND.

I MEAN, THESE ARE LIFE SAVERS.

IT'S A HUGE HELP AT THIS TIME.

WE WEREN'T EVEN SURE WE WERE GOING TO BE ABLE TO OPEN UP IN AUGUST.

AND WE WERE ONLY ABLE TO DO THAT BECAUSE THEY DEEMED THE FOOD TRUCK REVENUE COUNT TOWARDS YOUR 51% HATS OFF TO THE CITY OF AUSTIN FOR SUPPORTING OUR LOCAL MUSIC VENUES THROUGH THE LIVE MUSIC VENUE PRESERVATION FUND.

AND I HOPE THAT THAT CAN CONTINUE ON AND BE NURTURED TO BE EVEN BETTER MOVING FORWARD.

UM, AND EVEN MAYBE OTHER NEW FUNDS BE CREATED FOR BIG, LARGE CROWD GATHERING RISKS LIKE PANDEMICS.

YOU KNOW, WE NEVER REALLY EXPERIENCED IN OUR LIFETIME IF LAWMAKERS ARE, CAN BE COGNIZANT OF WHAT THEY HAVE DONE TO BARS AND RESTAURANTS, AND TO GIVE THEM ADDITIONAL FLEXIBILITY GOING FORWARD IN THE SHORT TERM OR EVEN MEDIUM TERM, TO HELP THEM GET BACK ON TRACK AND GET SECURE FINANCIAL FOOTING.

THAT WOULD BE AN AMAZING THING GOING FORWARD.

NO, SO FAR OUR WORK IS FOCUSED ON, UH, LOCAL ONES, CITY, GOVERNMENT, AND YOU KNOW, THIS LAST YEAR, THAT RESULTED IN WHAT WE CALL THE AUSTIN MUSIC DISASTER RELIEF FUND.

WE WERE ABLE TO WORK WITH THE CITY GOVERNMENT INFORMED CRITERIA AND MAKE SURE ALL THE MUSICIANS WHO NEEDED TO COULD APPLY.

WE WERE VERY INVOLVED IN WHAT WE NOW CALL IT THE SAVES RESOLUTION TO DELIVER 5 MILLION IN FUNDING TO VENUES.

IF THERE IS A SILVER LINING AT ALL TO 2020, IT'S THE FACT THAT WE WERE ABLE TO HIT THE RESET BUTTON, UH, ON SO MANY AREAS OF A COMMUNITY, INCLUDING THE MUSIC INDUSTRY.

AND SO WITH THAT, WE TAKE A PAUSE AND WE LOOK AROUND AND WE SAY, WELL, YOU KNOW, WHEN WE CREATE THIS INDUSTRY COMING BACK TO, YOU KNOW, THERE'S A LOT WE WANT TO SAY, BUT THERE'S MAYBE SOME PARTS THAT WE NEEDED TO CHANGE FOR A LONG TIME.

ANYWAY.

AND THE BIGGEST ONE OF THOSE, UH, IMMEDIATELY

[00:10:01]

THAT COMES TO MIND IS EQUITY TO MODIFY OUR BUSINESS.

YES, WE, WE WENT AHEAD AND IMPLEMENTED THE, TO GO CURBSIDE BUSINESS THAT DEFINITELY ADDED SOME REVENUE.

UM, WE WERE ABLE TO SELL DRINKS TO GO, WHICH YOU COULDN'T DO ON A NORMAL DAY EVER IN TEXAS.

AND THAT DID HAVE AN IMPACT, A POSITIVE IMPACT ON OUR SALES, EVEN BEING WELL-INFORMED EDUCATED PEOPLE.

WE DIDN'T KNOW WHAT WE DIDN'T KNOW AT THAT POINT, BUT WE DID KNOW WHAT WE DID KNOW, WHICH WAS AT SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST CONTRIBUTED ANYWHERE BETWEEN 12 TO 40% OF ANNUAL, UM, NUT YEAR IN A YEAR.

SO WITH THE CANCELLATION OF THAT, WE KNEW WE HAD TO DO WHAT WE DO BEST IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS, WHICH WAS TO, TO COME TOGETHER AND PIVOT AND TRY TO RECAPTURE WHATEVER SALES WE COULD.

WE'VE LEARNED TONS OF NEW SONGS AND, AND WE'VE ACTUALLY FINISHED SOME NEW SONGS.

AND SO IN THAT RESPECT, IT'S, IT'S BEEN GOOD BECAUSE YOU'RE DOING THINGS THAT OTHERWISE YOU WOULD NOT HAVE HAD THE TIME TO DO, RIGHT? SO YOU GOTTA FIND THE SILVER LINING SOMEWHERE, I GUESS, LOOKING 12 TO 18 MONTHS INTO THE FUTURE AND MAKING A STATEMENT ABOUT WHAT'S GOING TO HELP US SURVIVE, GET TO THE NEXT, I MEAN, IT'S DIFFICULT, BUT THERE'S A FEW THINGS.

NUMBER ONE, WE'VE GOT TO STICK TOGETHER.

THERE'S NO WAY THAT ANY OF US ARE GETTING OUT OF THIS THING ALONE.

.

* This transcript was compiled from uncorrected Speech-to-Text.