Red Alert

An Open Letter To The Public By Industry Veteran Harvey Leeds

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People like me and companies like mine work in an invisible industry. Every single one of you have seen or been involved in the fruits of our labor whether it was watching any show on TV, going to any movie, attending a concert, attending a conference, enjoying a night at the theater, watching a symphony orchestra or seeing any number of special events from awards shows, sporting events, political conventions; the list goes on and on.

We do not mind being invisible by any stretch of the imagination. It is what we do, it is what we love and that about which we are fiercely passionate.

None of the above mentioned projects happens without a huge staff of highly talented but unseen people that are willing to work extremely hard, under crushing deadlines, and often for very long work hours merging art and technology. Watch the credits at the end of any movie. Look at the hundreds of names of people you will never see that were nevertheless crucial to creating the final product. The same holds true for any TV show, music tour, theatrical tour, corporate event, sporting event or special event.

This industry employs between 10 and 12 million people and generates well over 300 billion dollars in revenue annually. Some estimates put that number at over 800 billion dollars. Between March 11th and March 13th of this year, our entire industry has been shut down and it appears to us that NO ONE IS PAYING ATTENTION! At this point we are going to have to be visible!

Compare the entertainment industry numbers above with that of General Motors. According to Wikipedia, GM generated a net income of 6.732 billion dollars in 2019 and employed some 164,000 people. The Federal Government deemed GM “too big to fail” and bailed them out with TARP funding of over thirteen billion dollars during the financial crisis in December of 2008.

My company and most others in this industry has experienced at least a 90% reduction in revenue and the more staggering issue is that none of us have any idea how much longer this will go on. Some are forecasting early 2021, some Q3 of 2021, and some are considering 2022 as the first viable option. We simply have no idea. Envision what THAT financial plan looks like.

Using a concert tour as an example, I want you to see the invisible ones that make it possible for you to see your favorite artists:

Artist Management (an entire office staff)
Booking Agency (an entire office staff)
Promoter (an entire office staff)
Promoter Representative(s)
Tour Manager
Production Manager
Stage Managers
Production Assistants
Production Designer (often an entire office staff)
Lighting Designer
Choreographer(s)
Lighting Programmer
Lighting Director
Lighting Technicians
Video Director
Video Content Creation team (often an entire office staff)
Video Graphics Technicians
Video Engineers
Video Display Technicians
Video Camera Technicians / Operators
Audio Engineers
Audio Technicians
Radio Frequency Technicians
Staging Technicians
Special Effects Technicians
Automation Technicians
Backline (music instrument) Technicians
Riggers
Wardrobe Technicians
Makeup and Hair Professionals
Personal Assistants
Merchandisers
Photographer(s)
Social Media Content Providers
Catering Services
Security Services
Logistics Coordinators (often an entire office staff)
Bus Drivers
Truck Drivers
Fabricators that build the staging and special effects (an entire office/warehouse staff)

On larger tours, the total number of above personnel who are actually on the road can easily exceed 100.


I suppose many people just assume a band owns all the equipment you see at an event, but that is very seldom the case. All the equipment you see at a concert is typically owned by third party suppliers that have vast amounts of capital tied up in inventory, personnel, training, research/development, liability insurance and warehouse/office space. These companies include:

Audio Companies
Lighting Companies
Video Companies
Rigging Companies
Staging Companies
Special Effects Companies
Musical Instrument Rental Companies
Catering Companies
Bus Companies
Trucking Companies
Logistics Companies
Power Generation Companies

To add to the list, there are locally sourced stagehands to physically install and strike the equipment on a daily basis as well as helping to run the event. For small tours this my be 20-30 local technicians. For larger projects it could be well over 100. While these personnel may only work one day on a touring project, they then work every other concert, theatrical production, trade show, convention, TV show, movie, etc. that occurs in the area. In every major market that is a full-time job, and these people are talented and invaluable.

We should also consider the local venue staff that include catering, concessions, security, ushers, ticket takers, maintenance, custodial services, electricians, IT, box office staff, cost check, merchandise seller, and venue management teams to the list of personnel essential to producing a concert or event.

ALL of the above people and ALL of the above companies are in a desperate situation right now. Companies have closed, people have been laid-off or let go permanently, private contractors have lost everything. We cannot sell our companies nor can we sell off our assets as there is little to no value in either currently.

This industry desperately needs help from our elected officials. While they bicker over partisan pet projects, pick winners and losers, and take their paid vacations, our companies are failing, our people are suffering from depression and some have even committed suicide. It is this simple: we need either additional grant money and unemployment or we need to open up and get back to work.

To the latter, we also need help from the public. If we can fly 100-200 people in an aluminum tube with people less than 18” apart for 5 hours across the country, we can certainly put on socially distanced events in theaters, arenas and stadiums.

If that means wearing a mask to accomplish this then please forget the political stigma attached to the question of masks for two or three hours and wear one. If you think your personal liberties are being threatened by wearing a mask, then imagine the reality of being forced to lose your entire income for the foreseeable future because the government said so. There are millions of people whose livelihood, mental and physical health absolutely depend on it. We will not be invisible any longer.

On the evening of Sept 1st, entertainment professionals lit their, homes and other architecture in red. When you see a structure lit up in red, know that the entertainment industry is dying. We can no longer afford to be invisible.


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