How the Charleston music scene is navigating the pandemic

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The COVID-19 pandemic is creating unprecedented obstacles for those in the music industry. The normally bustling Charleston music scene is now much quieter.

One local venue, Charleston Music Hall, closed its doors on March 10th and hasn’t made a dollar since. More than 100 events had to be canceled over the last four and a half months. In 2019, the venue hosted 278 events.

National touring artists are the hall’s main source of revenue, but artists have mostly stopped touring for the time being.

“2020 at this point is looking like it’s gonna be a wash,” said Charles Carmody, the executive director of Charleston Music Hall. “I don’t know when or how we can open this year.”

Carmody has been in contact with other entertainment venues in the city and says they are all in the same boat.

“We’re taking it a day at a time. The governor’s office has told us we’re not allowed to open until the state of emergency has been lifted,” said Carmody.

A Charleston-based band called Doom Flamingo is just one group on a long list suffering from the pandemic. Usually booked for six months to a year out, now the members have a lot of free time.

“The biggest thing being touring cause that’s where we generate the most income, that’s where we grow our fanbase on the most intimate level,” said Thomas Kenney on the effects the pandemic has had on the band. “It also affects our post-production budget.”

Doom Flamingo has been working on other ways to bring in revenue like creating and selling new merchandise.

Recently, the band signed up to do a pop-up show at Charleston Pour House but the virus changed their plans.

“We booked the show and sold it out and then there was an exposure kind of close to home and you know how it is you have to play it safe,” said Kenney.

The planned socially-distant show had to be cancelled the day of and tickets were refunded.

While the band itself is struggling financially, members are looking at helping the music industry as a whole.

Doom Flamingo’s management team participated in a Zoom meeting with the National Independent Talent Organization (NITO), the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and many other organizations to discuss the next steps in introducing legislation to help the industry.

The initiative is called Save Our Stages. The ultimate goal is to get financial assistance to independent venues.

As for the Charleston Music Hall, Carmody has been brainstorming ways to bring revenue into the business.

Starting in Mid-August, Charleston Music Hall will do private rentals and host movie screenings, improv shows, cocktail parties and other small events with a capacity limit.

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