We are now a year plus into the COVID lockdown. Things are different. The way we live is different. The way we work is different. Venues have closed, some forever. Conventions have stopped and dozens of companies have shutdown. Though virtual or hybrid events have helped some organizations stay afloat, many haven’t worked since March of 2020. Our industry was the first one to stop working and it will be the last one to return. For months I’ve spoken with friends and colleagues across the country and they all echo the same refrain, they miss work and they miss friends.
The events industry is perhaps unlike any other. While many outside the events industry work with people they admire, events has a camaraderie on a paramount level. Ours is a field employing people from all walks of life and from every demographic. There are so many diverse groups needed just to create a single event. Drivers, caterers, planners, engineers and so many more, coming together and focusing their efforts to output a successful product. When traveling, chances are where ever you go, you will work with a person who knows someone you know. While the rest of the world is 6 degrees of separation, live events is usually 2.
As I mentioned earlier, many venues have closed their doors forever, as seen by this list: https://www.billboard.com/index.php/articles/business/touring/9451748/venues-closing-coronavirus-america-list. Some of these venues where iconic, landmarks that were engrained in their city’s history. Institutions, which hosted thousands of events, concerts, shows and parties, are now just memories. Worse yet, in conjunction with these closures, you now have thousands of people permanently out of work. Engineers, technicians, wait/bar staff, food workers and many others have lost a job at a time when it’s very difficult to find a new one.
Despite what some naysayers or unsympathetic people believe, live events are NOT luxury items. Besides the concerts and theater performances we all equate with live events, there are many other aspects to the industry which are a part of the fabric of everyday life. Press conferences, product launches, award ceremonies, school functions, weddings and much, much more. The industry employs millions and infuses billions of dollars into the local economy. From the largest cities to the smallest towns, every municipality can benefit from live events.
In eastern Mississippi, a place many don’t necessarily associate with production or live events, an experiment was done in order to track the effect of events on the region. An out of town crew was given marked $50 bills for their daily per diem unbeknownst to them. After the crew packed up and left, officials tracked the cash and discovered the money was mostly used in mom and pop establishments around the city and in neighboring towns. The money was directly invested back into the local economy.
Another fact that is brought up many times in my discussions is the loss of employee funded healthcare or the ability for people to pay their healthcare premiums. This ripple effect is causing many people fear, as they worry what will happen if they or a loved one gets sick.
Depression statistics are increasing. Overdoses and suicides have spiked with COVID, but our industry it seems was hit especially hard. So many of our brothers and sisters live alone or have no family, and loneliness can be devastating. Right now, there are people we know just needing someone to talk to or someone to care. They are facing uncertainty and desperation. If you haven’t heard from someone in a while, call them to see how they are doing or if you can, invite them over, it can make all the difference in the world. If you are reading this and you don’t have anyone to talk to, email me your phone # at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will call you back.
Event people are a different breed. Most say it’s more than a job or career, it’s a lifestyle and a mindset. It’s in our blood and it’s in our soul. People who say, just find something else to do, don’t get it and never will. While some have moved on to other types of employment, the rest are holding fast, counting the seconds when they can get back on the job.
It’s not all bad news though. There is a light at the end of this tunnel. Producers, planners, and clients I talk to all say the same thing, if the trend keeps progressing as it is now, Q 4 and early 2022 is going to be a madhouse! There will be an abundance of work, as people will be anxious to get back out into the world and start events again. This will be welcome news, as all of us missing work and missing friends won’t have to miss either anymore.
This post is dedicated to all the hardworking people who make events happen. If you know anyone who is feeling suicidal or you yourself are, please call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255