Neumos in Seattle, in a Pandemic: ‘These Venues are Getting Knocked Down and Becoming Condos’

As co-owner of Seattle’s popular independent venue Neumos in Capitol Hill, Steven Severin has been a staple in the Seattle music industry for more than 20 years. Roughly 10 years ago, he helped create the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association to bring together the area’s live event insiders, and for the past 16 years has helped run Neumos with its sister club Barboza and the accompanying Runaway bar.

As part of Billboard’s efforts to best cover the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on the music industry, we will be speaking with Severin regularly to chronicle his experience throughout the crisis. (Read the last installment here and see the full series here.)

What has changed for you in the past couple weeks?

We launched the [The Washington Nightlife Music Association] Keep Music Live campaign. We launched the campaign at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. It is amazing working on something for so long for one day to finally launch. We all got on a call at 10 a.m. on Tuesday and celebrated and put whiskey in our coffees. We all hit send at the same time and had something to celebrate. Then there were still so many millions of things to do. I emailed hundreds if not thousands of people asking them to help donate or promote Keep Music Live. I said, “I don’t ask for favors but this is my time asking for a favor. You need to return this favor. This is a favor I need.” The response has been amazing. If it is $25, amazing. If it is $25,000, awesome. Every bit counts. We got so many under $100 donations. That’s just so rad to see. You would have bought two tickets to a show for $50. Give that to us so we can do this. Then spread the word. Tell other people, because you never know who you are hitting.

I saw the image of a “Coming Soon” sign for condos on Neumos and, honestly, my stomach sank. Once I read more it clarifies that this is what could happen if Washington venues don’t get help, but it stopped me in my tracks.

I did too and I worked on the fucking thing for months. I saw it and it was the most I realized that this is all real. It really could go away. We are on the precipice. This is crazy. We’re all hanging by threads. Seeing that on our venue and the tractor at Central was like, “Oh man. This is horrible.” I’ve had people hit me up and say, “Man, I just heard about Neumos. I’m so sorry. Fuck. I never thought it would come to this.” And I am like, “You don’t read.” [Laughs] But that’s also the point. That’s what we were trying to do. We wanted to get people to understand because we get so numb to everything. We had to do something to get people to pay attention. [This] has done it.

How long ago did the banners go up?

They went up on Tuesday and I’ve heard everything from “I’m sorry you’re losing Neumos, this is devastating” to “Holy shit that was an incredibly smart campaign. You guys are geniuses.” I didn’t come up with it, but sure. The banners are going up on six other places in Seattle. El Corazón’s is 70 ft long. Ours is maybe 20 ft. El Corazón’s is off of the highway and it is massive. Because of it, we are in the Seattle Times. We’ve got a couple of TV pieces coming out. [U.S. Senator] Maria Cantwell’s (D-Wa.) chief of staff [Jami Burgess] called me. He didn’t call because everything is going great. He called because he saw everything happening and they want to do something to help. He’s been great.

Have you gotten the reaction you were hoping for from the campaign?

I went on a Reddit thread about Keep Music Live and people do not get it. Somebody said, “Someone else will just open another club, no big deal.” Who is going to open a club right now? That’s the stupidest investment you could possibly make. We don’t know when the pandemic is going to be over. We don’t know what the music industry is going to be. Why would you do that and pay that kind of rent? These venues are getting knocked down and becoming condos. We know that because we have been told that. This isn’t a hypothetical. One is going to be a bible factory. The people who own that building make bibles and they said that if the club ever goes away, it is turning into a bible factory. Which is just so weird on so many levels.

Last week the National Independent Venue Association announced the #SOSFest and Macklemore played your room for the virtual event happening this weekend. How was that for you?

He is such a good dude. I have known a lot of artists that have gone on to do big things and fame changes them. It’s not really possible to have really huge fame and not be changed. The week that Macklemore’s big record came out, The Heist, he had sold out WaMu Theater which is 7,000-capacity. Then he did a secret release show at Neumos for 600 people. Artists don’t really do that anymore and he did. When his next record came out, he did the same thing. I think he did five Key Arenas, sold out to 13,000 people. But earlier that week he did Neumos. When we asked him about #SOSFest, he was like, “Yeah. Totally. I’m in.” To get to see him as part of #SOSFest with some killer names is rad. I am going to be glued to my couch all weekend. I am starting with FINNEAS. Steven Sternschien, he is the dude that put this together and he knocked it out of the park. I mean, he got the Foo Fighters to play the fucking Troubadour. Is there anyone he asked who said no? This better raise a cagillion dollars.

How has NIVA been feeling about the Save Our Stages (SOS) Act since the president did not agree to the package a few weeks ago?

The lobbying group for NIVA are some of the most resilient fuckers there are. I say fuckers with adoration because that is what we all call each other. The amount of work that they have done and staying on top of things. Something happens and you immediately get an email. They are pretty phenomenal. We know that something is going to happen. The SOS or the Restart Act or whatever it gets called is going to happen. We are going to get that, we just don’t know when. The scary thing and the thing we are pushing so hard for, is getting them to do it now. 

Coronavirus

Need Some Beach Tips? Britney Spears Has Got You Covered

It’s Britney, beach.

Britney Spears took to Instagram on Monday (Oct. 19) to share her top beach tips as Los Angeles continues to stay warm well into the fall. She kicked off the clip with a disclaimer about her green snakeskin bikini: “So, this is the exact same bathing suit I wore like three days ago to the beach, but I said, ‘Hey, why not give it another shot?'”

As for Spears’ “five most important things” to bring to the beach? “A towel, oil, sunscreen, a dog and a hat.”

But despite her beach-themed insight, the pop princess didn’t have sand and waves on her agenda for the afternoon. “I’m going to go to my jacuzzi now!” she signed off.

Watch the video below.

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Music’s Third-Quarter Earnings Preview: Seven Key Points to Watch

This year, stakeholders and investors can follow a very specific narrative as they watch music companies’ earnings reports: The first quarter (January to March) showed the early, unexpected impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down entire sectors of the industry in early March. The second quarter (April to June) illustrated how well some businesses were either scrambling or surviving, as the economy struggled to keep its footing. Third quarter earnings (July to September), which officially start Tuesday with Universal Music Group’s owner Vivendi’s financial statements and will span about six weeks, will be a referendum on how entities are navigating a pandemic that is here and not going anywhere for the immediate future.

The pandemic has affected companies in different ways. The concert industry’s pandemic mitigation will be on display from Live Nation, CTS Eventim and Madison Square Garden Entertainment. Spotify and SiriusXM will reveal how the subscription model has performed and whether or not online advertising bounced back from a horrid second quarter. iHeartMedia, Cumulus and Entercom will show if radio advertising improved from a second-quarter collapse. The three major labels’ record labels and publishers will provide insight into the global industry’s rebound.

On Monday (Oct. 19), Warner Music Group jumped the gun to give investors a preview of its earnings, releasing unaudited, partial quarterly results — namely revenue and EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) — for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30. At the same time, Warner announced a $250 million notes sale that will help fund two acquisitions of unnamed companies. Warner isn’t raising money because it’s in trouble. Its revenue will range from approximately $4,435 million to $4,485 million, compared to $4,475 million last year; adjusted EBITDA will be between roughly $825 million to $845 million, an improvement from $737 million a year earlier. Warner has about $550 million in cash, some of which will help fund the acquisitions.

Here are seven key points to look for this earnings season:

How much money is in drive-in shows and livestreams?

Following a near-dead second quarter, concert promoters mitigated pandemic-related venue closures with events in safer spaces. Live Nation and Madison Square Garden Entertainment saw their revenues drop 98% and 95.8% in the second quarter, respectively. Since tours were suspended in March, Live Nation and other promoters have produced one-off shows with limited revenue potential rather than lucrative tours. But their creative approaches make the best of a bad situation. Live Nation, with Live At Home, has joined an army of artists, promoters and venues offering well produced, paid livestreams. Ironically, Stevie Nicks’ new concert film, The 24 Karat Gold Tour, is being released through BMG and Trafalgar in theaters on Oct. 21 and 25 only — replacing lifeless entertainment venues for struggling theaters with limited capacity.

Subscriber growth

The third quarter will reveal if subscription services are either pandemic-proof or susceptible to joblessness. Second-quarter subscriber numbers were strong across the board. Spotify’s subscriptions grew by 8 million to 138 million; advertising revenue that supports the free tier sank 21%. At SiriusXM, its satellite self-pay subscribers rose by 264,000 to 30.3 million and Pandora added 41,000 subscribers. SiriusXM is confident enough to have upped its year-end forecast from 500,000 to 700,000 net new subscribers in September. The earnings reports of Universal Music Group (earnings out Tuesday, October 20) and Warner Music Group (earnings release date has not been announced) need a strong performance from Spotify. Subscriber growth is the most important metric for investors who buy into the narrative that a market leader should focus on grabbing market share and investing in product development; Spotify succeeds on both counts.

The race for the home

In a market lacking clear competitive advantages, the largest technology companies in the world are exploiting their control over the home unit to build their streaming media services. As Will Page, former chief economist at Spotify, noted in a new Billboard article, “tech giants like Apple and Amazon seem to be looking at households,” not individuals, as the ultimate target. Both companies have direct billing relationships with hundreds of millions of households — Apple through iTunes and its app store, Amazon through its unparalleled e-commerce business. Both companies also have music and video on-demand streaming platforms. Other than Google, no other company can offer a similar suite of services. Compared to a standalone offering like Spotify or Netflix, Apple’s Apple One, coming this fall, looks like a bargain: Apple Music, Apple+, Apple Arcade and iCloud for $14.95 and $19.95 for an individual and family plan (Apple News and Apple Fitness+ are added to the premium version for $10). Likewise, Amazon can count on its smart speaker and Prime businesses to gain music subscribers.

The return of radio advertising

A divisive 2020 election comes at a perfect time for a beleaguered U.S. radio market. The entire U.S. radio advertising market will be down 23% in 2020, an improvement from its 33.2% dip in the first half of the year, according to market research firm Magna. Second-quarter revenues of iHeartMedia, Cumulus and Entercom, the three largest U.S. radio companies, were down 46.6%, 47.8% and 53.8%, respectively. For its part, iHeartMedia has the benefit of a lighter, post-bankruptcy balance sheet and lower interest payments than three years ago; lenders have loosened its debt terms to help prevent a default.

Cash in the bank

Some companies’ rainy day funds turned into life rafts when they realized the pandemic’s enormous impact. In music, concerts and radio advertising have been hit the hardest. Companies have prepared accordingly: Live Nation added debt of $1.2 billion of long-term debt and $120 million in an existing credit facility; iHeartMedia drew down its credit facility by $120 million and extended its credit by $120 million. Things could be worse. AMC Theaters, owner of a nationwide movie theater chain, warned investors it could run out of cash by the end of 2020 or early 2021 in spite of raising between $355 million and $415 million of extra liquidity in August.

The return of physical sales

Even though the CD format regularly posts double-digital declines, it provides hundreds of millions of dollars to complement companies’ far larger digital revenues. Fortunately, as cities and states ease their restrictions, retail stores’ CD and vinyl LP sales have returned from closures that left curbside pickup and home delivery as the best options to serve customers. Sales have returned to their normal deficit in the U.S. Third quarter physical sales in the U.S. dropped 4.2% year-over-year, from 15.6 million to 14.9 million, according to MRC Data. Still, year-to-date sales through the week ended October 8 are down 15.1%. Global sales will roughly mirror the U.S. figures.

Amazon’s expanding empire

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Amazon deepened its hooks into consumers who wanted to avoid some of the rigors of shopping in public. Now, seven months after the first shelter-in-place orders in the U.S., Amazon trucks are ever-present reminders that the company has helped change shopping habits permanently. Amazon’s sales during last week’s two-day Prime Day reached almost $3.5 billion in 19 countries, about 60% more than its 2019 haul. Consumers bought millions of smart speakers that incorporate the Alexa technology used in Amazon’s products. The speakers are a stepping stone to Amazon’s music streaming services: Amazon Prime Music, Music Unlimited and Music Unlimited HD.

Third-Quarter Earnings Calendar:

Tuesday, Oct. 20
Vivendi (Universal Music Group)

Thursday, Oct. 22
SiriusXM
Alphabet

Wednesday, Oct. 28
Sony Corp. (Sony Music Entertainment)

Thursday, Oct. 29
Spotify
Apple
Amazon

Thursday, Nov. 5
Cumulus

Tuesday, Nov. 10
Tencent Music Entertainment

Not yet announced
iHeartMedia
Warner Music Group
Live Nation
Madison Square Garden Entertainment
Ryman Hospitality
Liberty Media
CTS Eventim
Bertelsmann

Here Are All the Livestreams & Virtual Concerts to Watch During the Coronavirus Crisis: Week of Oct. 19

The weather may be getting colder, but the livestream concerts are heating up!

For the week of Oct. 19-25, numerous big acts are taking to the virtual stage to entertain fans while digital concertgoers remain safe in the comfort of their own homes. Among the musical acts offering livestream concerts this week are Billie Eilish, who had to cancel her massive tour when the coronavirus arrived in the U.S. earlier this year; Pearl Jam; Lady A and more for the iHeartCountry festival; and more.

Check out the list below of socially distanced concerts you can stream from home this week. We’ll update the list as more events are announced.


Oct. 21: James Bay is livestreaming from Shakespeare’s Globe. There will be four sets for four different regions of the world, with the U.S. shows beginning at 8 p.m. ET and PT. Tickets are on sale now.

Blackbear will perform a virtual concert from the lobby of The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles at 6:00 p.m. PT/9:00 p.m. ET. Presented via Moment House, tickets are available here.

Oct. 22: Pearl Jam celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band’s first live performance by livestreaming their April 29, 2016, show during which they played their iconic album Ten from beginning to end. The three-hour, 32-song show begins at 8 p.m. ET on Nugs.net.

Saweetie will give fans a preview of her new single “Back to the Streets,” which is set to be released on Oct. 23, through the Jack Daniel’s “Flavors of Fall” livestream series. During the livestream, Saweetie will make her signature Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey cocktail, “Saweet & Sour,” and will host a trivia game and Q&A with fans. Saweetie will also be joined by Jack Daniel’s U.S. Brand Ambassador Eric “ET” Tecosky to mix the cocktail live. Tune in on her InstagramYouTube, and Facebook.

Oct. 23: Dierks Bentley, Kane Brown, Lady A and many more are performing for the 2020 iHeartCountry festival, which is going virtual this year. The event, which was recorded on one stage in Nashville, begins at 8 p.m. ET and streams on LiveXLive.

Chief Keef and Polo G are doing a virtual concert together. “Coming from Chicago and getting to perform with Chief Keef is already amazing, but getting to do it on Dreamstage is going to take it to the next level,” Polo G said in a statement. “Our fans have never seen anything like what they are about to experience. It’s going to be crazy!” The show starts at 7 p.m. ET on Dreamstage; tickets are $14.99.

The Avett Bros. are playing a live show from the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The set begins at 8 p.m. ET on Nugs.tv; tickets start at $24.99.

Scarypoolparty is livestreaming a nearly all acoustic full band set from Hotel Cafe. Tickets begin at $10.

Oct. 24: Billie Eilish had to cancel her tour when the coronavirus pandemic hit, but the 18-year-old is set to do a livestream show for fans who couldn’t see her in person. Her “Where Do We Go?” global livestream will be hosted on her website, and begins at 6 p.m. ET. Tickets are $30.

Avril Lavigne is playing a livestream concert to raise awareness of Lyme disease. Her career-spanning set will include hits, fan favorite songs, as well as tunes from 2019’s Head Above Water. “I’m so excited for fans and friends from all over the world to join me and my very special guests for #FightLyme, which will benefit the Lyme community,” Lavigne, who has shared her battle against Lyme disease, said in a statement. The show begins at 8 p.m. ET; tickets start at $25 on her website, and benefit The Avril Lavigne Foundation and Global Lyme Alliance.

The Goo Goo Dolls an immersive livestream concert featuring songs from across their catalogue, with the show beginning at 9 p.m. ET. Members of the band’s fan club will have early access to tickets on Oct. 15general sales begin Oct. 16.

HAIM, Katherine McPhee and David Foster, Ewan McGregor and more are performing for the GO campaign’s 14th annual gala, which is going virtual this year. The event, co-hosted by Robert Pattinson, will benefit COVID-19 relief causes as well as organizations fighting for racial justice. The gala begins at 9 p.m. ET and is free to stream; reserve a ticket and donate at GoGala2020.org.

Jack Black, Aloe Blacc, DJ Khaled, Fat Joe and more are joining The MDA Kevin Hart Kids Telethon to support the Muscular Distrophy Association. The event begins at 8 p.m. ET, streaming on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. For more information or to donate, visit TheTelethon.org.

2 Chainz and La La Anthony will host the YouTube Originals virtual event “HBCU Homecoming 2020: Meet Me On The Yard,” including performances by 2 Chainz, Saweetie, Chloe x Halle, NLE Choppa and Tye Tribbett with FAMU’s Marching 100 and Choir. The global livestream — which is part of the #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund to amplify Black creators and artists — premieres at 8 p.m. ET on YouTube and on BET, which is serving as the exclusive broadcast partner.

Japanese band Esprit D’Air are playing a livestream show in celebration of their 10th anniversary. The rockers will be debuting new songs from their upcoming album Oceans, which is coming next year. Tickets are about $14 (£10.99); the show begins at 5 p.m. ET on EspritDair.com.

Coronavirus