Rochester music industry ‘devastated’ because of COVID-19 venue shutdown

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Even before Governor Cuomo’s announcement to shut down all restaurants, bars, casinos — or any other place people might gather in large groups — performers began losing jobs one by one.

Hundreds of musicians in the Greater Rochester area have lost individual jobs, which when they’re all added up, means massive losses. But that also adds up in a trickle down way.

“What we’re looking at is a complete change in societal structure, as far as support of music and the arts” said Matt Ramerman, the owner of The Green Room recording studio. “Musicians and artists provide entertainment for your weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, corporate events — across the board, these industries are really getting hit hard.”

“It’s not just the musicians, it’s sound engineers, the lighting engineers, it’s the Uber driver who drove the people there to see the show, it’s the restaurant that they stopped at along the way, it’s bar they would have gone to after the show,” Ramerman said.

For someone like Ramerman, he’s full time, relying on these gigs. Without them, he has no security blanket.

“Musicians don’t have the same level of stability often that most traditional jobs offer,” Ramerman said. “There’s no unemployment, there’s no paid sick leave, there’s no 401k … There’s nothing to fall back on. And most of the stimulus packages that get passed in times of crisis, don’t help us out.”

“Since Cuomo made the first announcement about capacity, I’ve lost $10,000 since then,” Ramerman said. “For musicians, that’s really devastating, because that’s not something that comes back.”

Full time musicians are hit the hardest, but part timers feel it too.

Fran Broderick is a local singer, songwriter, and guitarist. His love of songwriting started young, and he’s been performing in the Rochester music scene now for ten years.

“I think the Rochester music scene is an incredible scene,” Broderick said. “Part of that is the family environment, you see artists in Rochester always supporting each other, always hyping each other up, always helping each other out.”

“From a young age, I knew that I wanted to write,” Broderick says. “Music was a medium for me to do that.”

Broderick is the songwriter and bandleader for his project “Left Handed 2nd Baseman” and also plays as a leader of Friday in America, but he doesn’t rely on his music career to pay the bills.

“I’m fortunate to have a 9-to-5,” Broderick said. “So cancelled gigs won’t ruin me, financially. My heart breaks for all of my friends who are performers, venue owners, support staff, sound guys,” Broderick said.

But as a member of this community, he wanted to help out, and give back to the supportive local scene. He created a site called There, musicians can post how much money they have lost from cancelled gigs, share their stories, and hopefully gain some support.

“I just wanted something simple that could connect fans and artists to get money into artists’ pockets as fast as possible,” Broderick said.

In addition to gathering up community support — in any and every sense — some have turned to a new medium.

Ramerman — who has a wife and two kids — said he maxed out a credit card buying live streaming equipment to broadcast from his studio, or venues. From there, people can pay the band and The Green Room right from the livestream.

“That’s a whole new business model that’s really cropping up overnight,” Ramerman said.

Both Ramerman and Broderick say that the Rochester music community is strong, and is capable of providing the support they need.

“Since the late 90s I’ve been a professional musician,” Ramerman said. “This has been my life, and this community has been my life.”

“It’s been one of the greatest scenes I’ve ever been a part of,” Ramerman said. “It’s a wonderful community, we have great venues, great venue owners, great musicians, wonderful recording studios, and a whole support economy. Including sound technicians, lighting technicians… It’s a great community, and a wonderful camaraderie that brings us together.”

So what can regular people — or music fans — do?

“Streaming on Spotify doesn’t pay them that much, but buying artists’ track really helps them,” Ramerman said. “Signing up from their Patreon, sharing their music — whatever you can do.”

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