“Since 2016 we’ve had the privilege of booking and promoting over 3500 shows across Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston,” it says on the homepage of Margin Walker Presents. The company claims to be the “largest independent promotion company in Texas.” Or at least it was.
“Even with strategic changes in the business, painful staff cuts, and taking loans and grants, sadly, we at Margin Walker Presents have not been immune, and it breaks our hearts to announce that this wild ride has come to an end, and we are closing the business. . . .”
Another victim of COVID-19.
And one can only presume that there were all of the musicians that the company had booked over the past few years who are now facing huge difficulties. No gigs to play. Or no gigs that pay. Pay enough to pay the rent and get groceries. Musicians who had once had side hustles are now having to put those undertakings front and center—assuming that that is still a possibility.
Anyone who has spent any time in Austin knows that the music scene there—even with the ever-encroaching gentrification caused by the corporations that want to take advantage of the “Weirdness” of Austin, not realizing that their very presence works to normalize it—is robust. Venues from Austin City Limits to small bars in residential neighbors with backyard patios with stages provide a wide array of music.
Although now that could be in the past tense.
Although the focus here is on rock and roll, the same day that I read about the closing of Margin Walker Presents there was a striking story in the New York Times. It was about professional musicians, organized musicians. As the story by Julia Jacobs opens, “When the coronavirus outbreak brought performances across the United States to a screeching halt, many of the nation’s leading orchestras, dance companies and opera houses temporarily cut the pay of their workers, and some stopped paying them at all.”
These are brand names, like the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera and the Kennedy Center.
Not all of the people that are being impacted are musicians. There are stage hands, as well.
Jacobs’ story notes that the New York Philharmonic is cutting the base pay of musicians by 25% through mid-2023, with a rise afterward, but still leaving the people making less in 2024, when the contract expires, than they are now.
At the Boston Symphony a three-year contract has been signed that includes a pay reduction of an average 37% the first year, then increasing subsequently “but only recovering fully if the orchestra meets at leas one of the three financial benchmarks.”
And the odds of that?
But there are the vaccines. There is hope that they will have a significant effect on people’s willingness to go out and resume life that looks something like it did before March.