I grew up in traveling America with my parents, which meant living through countless cycles of the move, make friends, and move again. Each move brought a level of chaos and disruption, but they mostly affected me and the friends I made. This Virus, however, is something different. Unlike any natural disaster, this is the first time in my life I’ve witnessed something that everyone, regardless of location, has had to cope with at once. No person, industry, or area of daily life has been left untouched by what’s going on right now.

COVID has impacted every aspect of our lives: we can’t go out with friends, grab dinner, or just swing by our favorite cars & coffee. And while our social norms have been uniquely affected, it’s our working lives that have seen the greatest disruption.

This virus, and the economic standstill it has brought, has wreaked havoc on so many industries. The foodservice industry, for example, has been hit hard. Many brick and mortar locations have closed up, and some have laid off their entire staff. Yet most restaurants have shown resilience, fighting to stay alive through the massive setbacks. Between offering curbside pickup options, embracing delivery only, and even selling liquor to-go, they’re finding ways to adapt and innovate.

But some of us aren’t that fortunate. I and my family in the world of live events and entertainment. Everything we do is based around locations, gatherings, events, and shows — and those have vanished.

In the last 10 years of my career has consisted of putting on events. I was thrown into this world from my first days in my car club — working all week, nights with boys modifying cars, and waiting for the weekend show then off. I learned a high from the organization side of the shows and I wanted to put them on how I wanted. Since then living out of a suitcase, sleeping on a plane, and loading and unloading vans and semi-trucks to put on incredible events around the nation. It’s a life I never expected, but one I learned to love.

There is a special kind of magic that lives in creating shared moments in time, and putting those moments together for people has never grown old. The hours are crazy and travel is a must, but knowing that we are creating new experiences for those around us always makes it worth it. Plus taking my family and friends along make it so much sweeter.

And I think you see where this is going — with every event canceled or postponed for the foreseeable future, there’s no industry left. Concert toursconferencessporting eventscorporate meetings, and many more have all shuttered. They all rely on a place, a time, and crews of people behind the scenes planning for months on end who travel set them up, and see them through.

The people who put on your favorite shows do it because they love it. I can attest.

The people who put on your favorite shows do it because they love it. I can attest. We all do it because there is a passion to build these experiences. The cars and trends we love, building friendships in locations are priceless.

And what many don’t realize is how large this ecosystem is. It’s not just comprised of car show guys, it’s much, much larger:

  • The venues and fairgrounds who employ office staff, security, technical, and many more…all the way through to food trucks.
  • The trucking, shipping, and logistics required to move equipment around.
  • The travel and lodging industries, which are deeply intertwined with events.

I think you get the idea — the impact on our industry, and the other industries intertwined with ours, is far, wide, and deep.

While we’re all working from home adapting to this ‘new normal’— the real question we’re all asking is, “When will we return to any semblance of what normal used to be?”

But, you see, our normal isn’t everyone else’s normal. It won’t return when cities begin to reopen. We can’t just restart this beast of a process overnight. Most events you’ve been to — music festivals, concert tours, car shows — take anywhere from months to years to plan and coordinate.

More importantly, there’s the question of, “When will it be safe to gather?” No one, and rightfully so, will want to be the first to take on the liability of risking attendees’ health and safety to put on events. Furthermore, who gives the ‘all-clear’ for events to gather at all? Will it be for each city or state to decide? The federal government? The industry itself?

The not knowing is hard. Not knowing when or how our industry will restart. Processing this is a lot. Days, much fewer weeks, are roller coasters of emotions. Waking up early each day makes me feel like we’ve got this, but by lunchtime, it’s a downhill slide into the grave reality that this is really hard.

During this season, our industry can’t easily pivot to make ends meet. Without people at events, we can’t make a living. We can offer shipping on our stuff from Shop.Stancewars.Com but that is just one of the 8 shows I help withWe don’t have the ability to just reopen a smaller event. We can’t put on a show tour. I can’t rent out my event equipment. I can’t purchase inventory.

Michael Strickland, founder of the lighting production company Bandit Lites, best puts it:

“Each day I discover that few people understand that live entertainment production firms and their people are sitting at zero income.”

So what do we do for today? I think, in the interim, there are a few things. The first of which is to rest. By now I would have had a now stop schedule of trips far from home and weekend after weekend. So I’m happy and going nuts at home.

The second is to communicate. There are so many of us out of work, many of whom are alone. Reach out to your friends, your colleagues, that one person you always wished you had time to call. I’m been chatting with show owners and talking about ideas.

The third is to create. I saw a colleague on Facebook put it best, stating that post-virus, society will enter into a creative renaissance. I agree. I’ve spent hours researching new ideas, locations, and changes in how we’ll operate moving forward.

Finally, make your voices known. Those in our industry have always been a quiet bunch. We will get through this. It might take longer than we hope for, but I know that someday we’ll be creating those magical moments again…because the show must always go on.

Mike Tolliver

 

 

Adapted from a article by Nicholas Rivero