With most live music events cancelled or postponed indefinitely, many students and community members wonder how they can support local artists and their favorite venues across Boise. Even for seasoned music fans, getting involved or staying active in the local music scene during a pandemic may seem impossible. But even though in-person events may be in short supply, the artists and business owners haven’t skipped a beat in coming up with creative solutions.
According to a study by Pollstar, both worldwide and North American touring experienced a historically severe drop in revenue with the accumulated grosses dropping over 75%, less than one quarter of what the live music business produced prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the efforts and donations made by the community, businesses that rely on live performance need more to bridge the gap.
This is where community advocacy and political involvement are making a serious impact.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Eric Gilbert, cofounder and festival director of Treefort, has been an active part in multiple programs to help local artists and venues stay open.
In April 2020, The Morrison Center partnered with the Boise City Department of Arts and History and Treefort to create the COVID Cultural Commissioning Fund (CCC) to support artists during the pandemic.
Similarly, Treefort also created the Treefort Live Music Relief Fund which offers support to a wide range of individuals working in the live music industry like musicians, tour managers, and audio and lighting engineers.
Gilbert also played a role in the effort to pass the Save Our Stages Act, now called Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, included in the recently passed COVID relief federal stimulus package. This includes $15 billion in federal funds for an array of struggling venues and businesses which rely on live events.
At the moment applications are not yet open to businesses, and details of this aid program are still emerging. Applications are expected to open in early April.
Even though there are still a lot of questions about who is going to be included, Gilbert is hopeful that this relief at the very least will help businesses get to the other side of this pandemic. Ultimately, the way the independent music community came together landed them on the radar of the state and federal government, and this is something that Gilbert is proud of.
“We don’t typically go to the government and ask for support,” Gilbert said. “We’re not really well organized, but we’re all really scrappy. We’re DIY artists at heart.”
This sentiment was echoed by Boise State student, Madisun Grindell, a senior media arts major with an emphasis in production and a minor in communication. Grindell, who uses the stage name Madisun Proof, is a part of a local mixed genre hip hop rap group called Them.Cees with artists Lyricallshea and Natalie Grace.
Grindell, an active member of the Boise music scene since they were 17, has performed at Treefort Music Festival for the past four years.
Even though they aren’t able to share their voice with other people in a live context very frequently right now, Grindell is touched by the support they’ve received from the community on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Spotify in the form of linking music in stories or sharing content.
Grindell suggests using methods like this to show support about local artists because it reminds artists that they are still being heard and listened to.
“It always makes my day because it’s not like you expect it,” Grindell said. “You expect to see someone coming up to you at your show when you have one, but it’s a whole other thing to just be surprised when you’re just doom-scrolling through Facebook or Instagram.”
Grindell describes that when they see their music being shared online, they receive a reminder that people in the community still care about them even though they haven’t been able to perform in months. This community and shared space is what Grindell misses most about performing live.
“It’s really not even about me up with a microphone in my hand,” Grindell said. “It’s just me with a bunch of other people all in the same space, caring about the same music.”