There she is, Amy Klobuchar — former presidential candidate, former vice presidential short-lister, current U.S. senior senator from Minnesota — standing in a Golden Gopher gold coat in front of Prince’s gold star on the facade of First Avenue.
That’s the photo accompanying the top story Monday at RollingStone.com where Klobuchar talked about why she has co-authored (with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas) the Save Our Stages bill to provide government assistance to small, independent music venues.
The bill is supported by the National Independent Venue Association, whose co-founder and board president is First Avenue Inc. owner Dayna Frank. The proposal would “keep venues afloat, pay employees, and preserve a critical economic sector for communities across America.” Most of these music spots have been shuttered since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I don’t want to lose music in America,” Klobuchar starts her 850-word op-ed piece. “It’s one of our most incredible assets, one of the most incredible parts of our culture in America, and one of our most successful exports to the world. It’s not only goodwill to the world, but it also brings in significant revenue to our country and jobs. And you can’t have creative music and allow new artists and people like Prince — before he was a superstar in our state — without venues where they can perform.”
The senator recounts how, as a suburban Twin Cities high schooler, she went to concerts by Led Zeppelin, the Cars and Aerosmith.
“[For towns] like Minneapolis, it is part of our whole appeal for bringing people downtown. It’s really important to the business of the city that you have things that people can go to.”
The live music business, where social distancing isn’t practical, will likely lose $9 billion before concerts can return in 2021, said the Minnesota senator, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights.
“I’m a believer that we’re going to get a vaccine, but I think it’s going to take a while,” she told Rolling Stone. “The president himself — not that I usually quote him — finally admitted it’s going to get worse before it gets better. So we have to know that this isn’t going to get fixed tomorrow. But at some point, there’ll be a day after tomorrow, and we want to make sure the music industry and the musicians are still strong.”
She pointed to cities like Nashville and Austin, Texas, where “music dominates their town.” But she said the bill is aimed more broadly. “The fact that we are covering towns that aren’t just the main music towns is really important to know; the export numbers on things like jobs and movies is huge.”
The bill is aimed at sustaining independently owned venues such as First Avenue and would bar federal funding for large, international corporations such as Amazon and the unspecified Live Nation. Those companies have advantages over small independent businesses, she argues.
Klobuchar urges music fans to call their Congressional representatives to encourage them to support the bill. And, in conclusion, she addresses her elected cohorts:
“To my fellow colleagues, I would say if you’re willing to put all that money into the airline industry because they’re uniquely affected, you’ve got to start looking at the music industry. That is a huge, huge part of our economy and such a unique American export. There are not other countries that have this kind of contribution.”
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719