Working from home? Switch to the DIGITAL edition of FRONT of HOUSE. CLICK HERE to signup now!
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages

FOH/PLSN Covid-19 Economic Impact Follow-up Survey Shows an Industry On the Edge

FOH Staff • News • July 9, 2020

LAS VEGAS — In early July, FRONT of HOUSE and PLSN Magazines conducted a follow-up to the Covid-19 Entertainment Technology Economic Impact survey in April. Over the course of a week, 2,910 magazine subscribers and others responded (most on the first day). Once again, the survey divided respondents into three groups: Business owners, W2 wage earning employees and 1099 freelancers.

The results are bleak and show an industry on the edge, highlighting a desperate need for additional PPP funding. The survey also once again included a comment section that gave respondents an opportunity to describe the challenge of the pandemic crisis in more detail.

“Members of Congress, hear us, we need help,” noted Doug Weber at Theatre Effects in Erlanger, KY. “The world’s source of enjoyment, enlightenment, even emotional decompression, is at risk — which includes the livelihoods of those that supply these needed and important aspects of life.”

Other responses, many unsigned, underscore the collective anguish of savings depleted and bright dreams in ruins. “I’m scared and can feel the horrible pain everyone is suffering. I don’t know if I can survive much longer. This the worst time of my life,” one respondent wrote. “If I am not back to work by September I will not only lose my new business, I will also lose all my livelihood and home. As a 45-year-old single woman who was at the top of her game, this has hit me very hard,” wrote another. “Losing everything it took our second generation family-owned company to build up – in a mere six months. It’s devastating…watching our life savings disappear, watching our employees suffer, with no end in sight.”

Still others took in the surreal and otherworldly aspects of the across-the-board shutdown. “It feels as though thousands of us woke up to a world where our industry simply ceased to exist,” noted Douglas Taylor, IATSE Local 16, in San Francisco. “Buildings we remember working in have been repurposed overnight. Shops that used to hire us are making medical supplies. As if it was a collective dream, we sign in to Zoom and reminisce about the things we remember, or talk about our dreams of the future. Yet we know they may only be dreams at this point.”

An array of additional signed comments follows the survey findings below.



65.3% of the companies in the Entertainment Technology & Production sector reported having to lay off employees.

7% of the employers reported they were able to keep all employees on their payroll.

32% reported they foresee further layoffs in the next 30 days.

40% of respondents stated they had lost their entire cashflow stream.

30% indicated they have lost 90 — 80% of their cashflow.

70% of the industry has lost 80% or more of its cashflow.

6% stated they had been able to keep 90% or more of their previous cash flow.

49% reported they added new services to replace lost cashflow streams. This is a 25% increase in new cashflow streams from our original survey.

50% of the companies stated they had received PPP loans. In the previous survey, 59% stated they were applying for one.

60.5% stated they would need additional PPP money, if it became available.

13.45% stated they believe they will have to file for bankruptcy protection. This is 4% lower than the 17.45% in the original survey.

77.17% indicated the survival of their company is in jeopardy because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


60% have been laid-off from a full-time job because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

48% indicated they only had rent money for the next 90 days or less.

19.5% indicated they will be losing their healthcare benefits in the foreseeable future.

9% indicated they have already lost their healthcare benefits.

87% stated they will not be called back to work in the next 30 days.

95% indicated the COVID-19 pandemic led to their unemployment status.

69% indicated they had filed for unemployment benefits.


95% have lost work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

51.5% indicated they only had rent money for the next 90 days or less.

17.42% indicated they will be losing their healthcare benefits in the foreseeable future.

8% indicated they have already lost their healthcare benefits.

88% stated they will not be called back to work in the next 30 days.

68% indicated they had filed for unemployment benefits.



From Doug Weber at Theatre Effects

“Let there be no misunderstandings, the Covid-19 virus is one thing in this world that has not discriminated against anyone, nor any business. The entertainment industry has been devastated by the closures, continuing onward with that lack of ability for crowds (audiences) to gather. I have had numerous phone conversations with countless business owners within our industry, some being quite gut-wrenching in nature. The one common sentiment that I have heard, is the fear for their employee’s futures — we are a noble lot.

“I have taken the attitude that my business, Theatre Effects, is not going to succumb to the situation. If someone would have told me in February that my company was going to be selling Covid-killing disinfectants, I would have told them they were crazy. Today, after pivoting to help everyone and to assist in keeping the company alive, we are proud to be providing top-notch, EPA-registered, disinfecting solutions to anyone that needs them. Service and survival.

“The entertainment industry, which not only offers a relief from the stresses of the daily churn, also provides worthwhile work to hundreds of thousands of citizens. From stagehands, costumers, electricians, box office workers, ushers, concession workers, maintenance, parking attendants, dinner theatres and all venues, inventors, industry manufacturers, commercial real estate owners, raw material suppliers, the list is endless.

“Members of Congress, hear us, we need help. The world’s source of enjoyment, enlightenment, even emotional decompression, is at risk — which includes the livelihoods of those that supply these needed and important aspects of life.”


Francisco J. Ramos, AV Consultants Services, Caguas, Puerto Rico noted that the entertainment and corporate theater industries are at a dire crossroads with Covid-19: “I have owned a business related [to these industries] for the past 27 years. The business [survived] hurricane George in 1998, the terrorist attacks in 2001, the Gulf War, Zika in 2015 and 2016 and, despite the ravages caused by hurricane María in September 2017, by November 2017, we were back. Currently with pandemic, [the] future looks uncertain.”


From Scott Plummer, Total Lighting Support, Tucson AZ: “After 32 years in business, this has been devastating. We have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, and are having to reinvent the business just to stay alive. Equipment that was purchased for what was to be a great spring season hasn’t even come out of the road case. Hopefully people will do what it takes to get the numbers down so we can all start doing shows again. I can’t wait to price a show correctly and not by how many cars you can get in the parking lot. Wear Your Mask.”


From Kent Sprague, NYC: “It’s pretty much ruined everything — all of my short-term W-2 and 1099 lighting freelance work dried up immediately. After about eight weeks of unemployment, I took a six-month contract position with a theatre company to strategize and implement live-streaming infrastructure. The position is relatively low paying, about 30% less than my normal work. Recently I have been commuting to the studio space where I have been working alone on setting up camera/lx/sound equipment.

“A lot of this is stuff I haven’t worked on before, so I’m learning some new skills, but part of me feels like I’m missing a once in a lifetime opportunity to really pursue and improve on my lighting and programming skills in a no pressure environment. I want to get back to my old freelance work as soon as it is reliable. I miss it so much.”


From Peter Wildmuth: “As a freelancer who serves many roles and works for several employers in the live event industry, I’ve saved up money for the slow times, but this pandemic is burning through out savings and making it very challenging to support a family of six, with no current income aside from unemployment.”


From Bryan Hairston, Hairston Touring Productions: “As a small firm Covid has shut down our operation almost completely. Luckily it’s only my partner and myself so overhead is very low but with no real end in sight it’s only a matter of time before money runs out.”


From Nick Kargel, Owner, You Want What? Productions: “As a supplier to live events, with such uncertainty about when business might be able to restart and what the economic conditions may be when that time comes, we have made the choice to pause operations and attempt to preserve our equipment while reducing overhead to a bare minimum with the hope of re-emerging in the future.”


From Sasha Scherlinsky, Production Assistant/Project Manager, formerly with Clearwing Productions: “As someone who went to school to get ahead in the sales/ management side of this industry, I am thankful that the government delayed student loan payments for six months. I am however afraid to see what happens come October when I am no longer eligible for unemployment and my student loans are due again. I got out lucky — with less debt than a lot of my other friends in this industry — but I know most of us will not be able to make ends meet with working a “normal” jobs while we wait for our normal work to resume. I have no issue going and trying to find a job somewhere in the normal workforce, but I know it won’t be enough.”


From Bob Farrer. Acousto Optics, LLC: “I was heavily booked through the year. Then like a light switch it was gone!”


From Daniel Marosi in Miami, FL: “Childcare during the summer is non-existent. Working while babysitting two kids has required my wife and I to switch-hit during the day and focus on more concentrated tasks at night while the kids are asleep. We are usually exhausted by the weekend.”


From Sam Artinger, with ScreenWorks/NEP: “For 40 years I have been able to provide work for people that have worked for me. In one day that all changed. There is nothing consistent in how our leaders are dealing with this.”


From Tom Hamilton, Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts: “Hardest times any venue has faced ever! Limited to NO source of revenues to keep facilities open and able to continue to pay staff.”


From Daniel Wright, SGPS: “I am a 14 year veteran of the touring entertainment industry. Something that I think is important to recognize that I don’t hear very much about is that, even though I have a valuable skill set that actually translates to other industries, I have had a very hard time acquiring substantial employment. Potential employers know that there is a great chance that I will return to my primary trade once I am able to do so. Most industries just can’t compete with the earning potential of the entertainment industry. It’s not that we’re overpaid, it’s that it takes a unique person to be successful in not only the craft, but navigating all of the pitfalls of the work environment.”


From John G. Pomeroy, Waukee, IA: “I am a full-time college theatre professor & Dept. Chair, working from home since March 13, 2020. Due to Covid-19 related revenue losses, my primary employer has implemented spending & hiring freezes, begun furloughing staff (my spouse is affected), and stopped employer contributions to our retirement plan. We have been warned that pay cuts are coming and will begin Sept. 1, 2020. I am also a freelance lighting designer, technical director, and Union stagehand. I have lost all of that employment since March 13, 2020. Though this is not my primary employment, earnings made from these sources are much needed to supplement the salary from my primary employer. I still have one job and for that I am thankful. We shall see for how long.”


From Aileen Dimery: “I am an IATSE Local 2 Stagehand, all we do is live production. The audience that we set up and run shows for vary in size from 2,000 to 300,000 people. So far, in Chicago at least…there are NO plans for large capacity venues reopening until there is a working vaccine. While Chicagoans have done their duty in bringing our numbers waaaay down, while at the same time, more than half of the states in this country have not! Hell, we’re right back where we were three months ago! At the end of this month, my CARES benefit will go away, leaving me $1,600 a month to survive. I simply won’t have enough money to live here. I can’t get another less expensive apartment because I’m legally unemployed. So I guess my government thinks it’s okay for me to go bankrupt, ruin my credit, not to mention my self worth over a virus that they knew was coming, did nothing, pretended it was fake news and fiddled while Rome burned. Hell…..the EU won’t even let us in. This is shameful.”


From Speedoo McFadden, Speedoo Sound: “I am complying with all health recommendations, but am continually dismayed by the apparent lack of concern on the part of people everywhere. I wish we had national leadership during this crisis.” [Speedo also joined others in noting that “I am both W-2 and 1099. I have insurance thru IATSE. There are a lot of people that do both. Your survey questions are too narrow.”]


From Denise Williams: “I am fortunate in that my job security was not affected directly by Covid-19… yet. My husband, however, was denied unemployment benefits (1099 employee) and although he has an autoimmune disease (Type 1 Diabetes) he has had to continue trying to work as much as possible. Fortunate that he has multiple skills to fall back upon. We are fortunate that I still have my job. Still, things are tight.”


From Michael Alers, Media Stage, Inc: “I believe the looming uncertainty about the future of our health is causing a stress/anxiety that we can’t imagine at the moment — as we are still in it. The effects of these anxieties, in my opinion, will be our next pandemic. We can never go back to “normal” because these events will always be in our minds and drive future decisions.”


From Marshall Sweeten: “I have been fortunate enough to qualify for the supplemental $600 relief thru NJ Unemployment. This is set to end, at this point, at the end of July. I have been writing my Local/State Government Officials to extend this for all of us. This additional funding has made it easier to get thru this. Having been laid off from my full time as the Head Electrician at The Etess Arena, In have had to pick up C.O.B.R.A. at the rate of $1,600/Month. I can only hold onto this for a short time, before being forced to downgrade to another plan with higher deductibles, and out of pocket cash requirements, should something happen.

“We did not ask for this layoff. We are at the mercy of government to decide whether, or not, we can survive. I wish to make this clear. I do not enjoy being out of work, waiting for these supplements to come thru. I have been in the Lighting/Electrics (Theatre, Concert Touring, now Arena Electrician) for 48 years. I cannot wait to get back to my craft. To encourage others, who are serious, to learn.


From Mike Mahoney, Mahoney Design: “I have been out of work since March 3rd and don’t see gatherings of 20,000 plus allowed anytime soon. As an independent entertainment lighting and scenic designer, I will absolutely need more support from the SBA and government funding. Loans are okay, but we need grants to stay alive until our industry gets back on its feet.”


From Linda Sayers: “I work for Bandit Lites, Inc. and Michael Strickland. Please continue to make the impact to the Live Entertainment business known. Somehow Michael Strickland has kept us all employed. He is a saint. Thank you for what you do.”


From Allen FitzGerald, Technical Director, Redford Theatre, Detroit: “I work with a non-profit theatre org. we run the Redford theatre. We do movies and special events on stage. Weddings, concerts, meetings, etc. I do pick up a 1099 on occasion, but it is not my main income. For the theatre, we have lost most of our big shows coming up; a concert, a comedy, filming several weddings. We have a fairly low overhead so as long as our bank account holds out we will be fine.”


From Russ Armentrout, Performance Lighting, Chicago: “I’m sympathetic towards all my friends and family members that I have had the honor of meeting. This disease has decimated all those hard-working good people. I pray we can get back to some sort of normalcy within a reasonable time frame. I also hope the federal and local governments will acknowledge the entertainment bushiness and provide greatly needed grants and financial programs for all. Stay safe and healthy in the midst of the mess.”


From Joshua Cravey: “I work in live entertainment, and Covid has destroyed everything I have worked so hard for! Unemployment is going to stop the $600 a week, which is not nearly what I make a week in production, but its helping me stay afloat. I’m very worried about after July 31, if there’s no other help given. I’m a professional in this industry I’ve been in both PLSN and FOH magazines as such and I cannot see myself in the future flipping burgers for a fraction of what I make as a professional! It is not our fault we cannot go to work and rock the house like we normally do.”


From Douglas Taylor, IATSE Local 16: “It feels as though thousands of us woke up to a world where our industry simply ceased to exist. Buildings we remember working in have been repurposed overnight. Shops that used to hire us are making medical supplies. As if it was a collective dream, we sign in to Zoom and reminisce about the things we remember, or talk about our dreams of the future. Yet we know they may only be dreams at this point.”


From Dylan Stedronsky, Tier One AV LLC: It’s been tough as a freelancer getting steady work in the webcast game. A lot of companies go internal with these projects. Would love to see things back to normal by the end of the year. Miss working with my guys. Be safe everyone!


From Alex M: It’s particularly challenging as someone right out of college going into the technical field of the performing arts. I work for my alma mater, Cal State Monterey Bay, and since there are no shows being hosted at the campus theater due to the pandemic my co-workers and I are focusing on remote editing projects, but those will only last so long until there are no more projects to work on. I’m really missing out on the practical experience and hands-on work in the theater.


From Stephen Barnette, Davaine Lighting: Just a quick thank you to PLSN for collecting this data and being a voice and champion for the live events industry!


From Matt Holden, BeardSound LLC: I’m the monitor engineer for Pitbull and we’ve been out of work since March 11. I am fortunate enough to have incorporated myself and was able to go on unemployment immediately. I did secure a PPP loan, but as of July the funds have been exhausted. I will probably have to go back on unemployment if more action is not taken, and I have yet to determine if that will affect my chances of having the PPP loan forgiven. This has been devastating to our industry. I have friends that have not been able to collect anything since they are freelance/1099 employees. It’s been painful to watch my friends and colleagues go through this. I managed to protect myself pretty well and it has still been hard on me and has caused me to change my lifestyle, so I can’t imagine what it has been like for those who have no help at all.


From Michael Bell, Bell Event Services Inc: My business is in shambles due to Covid-19. We have pivoted to installation work and streaming but we do not have enough work to ensure survival. PPP was a huge help but it’s running out. It’s scary.


From Eric Cathcart, Bigtime Lighting Design LLC: My company has lost 100% of revenue due to Covid-19. My only source of income is due to my PPP and EIDL loan. The PPP has run out, and my EIDL will probably run out mid September.


From Rick Raymond, ASHOWGO, Inc: My company’s business is split between two areas of the entertainment industry. I provide tour and production management for an internationally known, multi-grammy award winning artist and I design & produce entertainment for corporate and private party events. This pandemic has resulted in a complete cancellation of all touring, as well as all corporate parties for the remainder of 2020. This looks to continue into 2021 as my corporate clients have stated they are not likely going to hold their events in Q1 of 2021, and possibly Q2. This is absolutely devastating in terms of continuing in this industry. Our industry needs assistance and we need it quickly if we are to survive this pandemic.


From Francis Nunes: My employer is making strides to bring the workforce back, unfortunately the state (Connecticut) has put a pause on stage 3 which indirectly affects my coming back to work at Foxwoods Resort Casino.


From Rebeka McIntyre: I’m a student by day at Cuyahoga Community College enrolled one the Recording Arts and Technology Program. At night I am an audio engineer/stagehand at The Beachland Ballroom and Tavern in Cleveland, OH….I applied and was accepted to work in a summer internship to work some shows at The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame as well as The Tri C Jazz Fest and other local events in addition to what I do at The Beachland. All of the dates for those events got canceled. I went to having an epic summer of amazing shows to having absolutely nothing…I was in a very dark place especially when I was told about the cancellation of the summer internship program due to the pandemic. The sudden change of being face to face in a real studio setting also affected my grades when all of my classes went to online format. I struggled to keep up because I am a very hands on person when it comes to learning and suddenly I didn’t have access to the schools labs and equipment…The school as of July has not announced anything in regards to Fall Semester for 2020.


From Mark Stonebarger Theatre Director Clear Springs High School League City, TX: Really concerned about arts education in the classroom!! Although in our theatre classes we have been able to do some distance learning – which includes concepts, techniques, historical information, play /movie evaluations, scene/costume/lighting design and performances with critiques – this is not ideal and students, as the art form itself requires for face to face interactions.



From Greg Scott, GASlight Design, Inc: My situation is no different then anyone else’s in the production industry. Event work was bountiful up to mid-March, then the production industry shut down. To date, work has been sparse and appears it will remain that way into the unforeseeable future. The current spike of Covid-19 and the country shutting down again is prolonging when live production events will or can happen.


From Denise R. Zeiler, Independent Company Manager/Stage Manager: Our nature is to be part of a community that works towards a common goal. We need that in our lives. This incomplete feeling is the cause of anxiety, loss, and loneliness.


From Pete Benson, Benson Pro Audio, Havelock, NC: Right now I feel like we will be ok unless this continues through next year. We are likely to lose some great people since there is not enough work to go around for everyone. I am not feeling great about how this whole thing has been handled. I feel the losses are much greater than the gains from the shutdown.


From Jeremy Schilling, owner and founder of Road Radios: The country has a leadership issue, the rest of the world has this contained. But not the great U.S.


From Wilm Pierson, Complete Production Systems, Inc: Save the arts…Artists who rely on collaboration and participation from live audiences are suffering. The production of live music, theatrical events, and films is difficult. More so when beset by outside destructive forces. In our current atmosphere production is a daunting task indeed. If we are to continue to thrive with love and hope, then we need artistic and creative endeavors to be perused. Collaboration and participation in live events brings out the best in humanity.


From Rusty Thelin, Artistic Director, RealTime Interventions: Thankfully we are a small (2 person) non-profit arts org, running on many volunteer hours and nimble enough to pivot during this crisis. Although we are losing a ton of revenue from potential future productions, we are not spending as much. The downside for us is that we were experiencing a moment of growth just prior to Covid-19, when we were finally going to be able to hire some staff as well as pay ourselves.


From Tomm Gillies, president, TLG Creative Group/SeeKing Productions: The Corporate Events market has not gotten as much press as other areas (Theatre, Music, Film, etc…) during the pandemic. However, Corporate Events account for ~$325 billion spending annually vs. ~$50-55 billion for Concerts, Film and Theatre combined. Corporate Events also account for ~2.5 million direct jobs vs. ~960 thousand in the other three industries combined. We ALL need to get back to work, but we also need to remember those who aren’t as visible as others.


From Todd B. Huffman, president/CEO, Production Solutions Inc: The Covid-19 pandemic has affected our industry like nothing else in the history of the entertainment industry. I did apply for, and receive, the PPP loan. However, the initial terms were to use it up within an eight-week period, to be possibly forgiven, so I did. I have since laid off the remaining shop personnel, and it is literally down to me, the business owner. We are a small to midsize audio production company in Ohio that is seasonal for the most part due to the part of the country we live in. Effectively as of June 30, 2020, ALL of my clientele through the end of September have officially cancelled entire summer festivals that were 3-1/2 to 4 months long, as well as annual shows that I have been a part of for 25 years. The first weekend in March were the last few shows we have done. EVERYTHING has been pulled out from underneath me. The company is still afloat, but for how long is partially up to the governmental restrictions/guidelines that our customers are forced to deal with, prior to re-opening for events. I urge everyone of us in this industry to continually bombard our government officials with letters and emails with details of our plight. I have been able to sustain a career and support my family in this business for 25 years, and for the first time ever, my livelihood is in jeopardy. We must all stay optimistic and hopeful, that SOMETIME in the future things will start going again, and we can get back to the 15-20 hour days that are so normal to us, that the normal event goer has no clue about. I salute all my fellow brothers and sisters in the industry for all the decades of hard work we have gone through, to earn this non-paid summer vacation. Health and happiness to all of you, stay safe, and enjoy this time with our families, who knows when we will EVER get this much time to spend with them again, especially once things get going.


From Carriann McConnell, freelance stagehand/casino entertainment supervisor: The entertainment industry and all its moving parts have been hit hard with little help or care from the government. It is unfortunate that we are not “essential” in their minds. We are to the communities we live in!


From Ian Miller, Audio Engineer, Wired Production Group, Cedar Rapids, IA: The most frustrating thing about losing my job due to the pandemic is that it isn’t isolated to just me. It’s everyone, it’s OUR jobs. It’s industry wide and nation wide. We can’t simply pack up, move, and find the same job in a different city, this is a career change. It’s a complete lifestyle change.


From Robert Brady, Texas Pro Sound: The pandemic has directly affected hundred of people I know that are my industry, which is entertainment. All the musicians, artists and tech people are not working because of all shows and events being canceled.


From Ryan E McDonough, Production/Stage Manager, Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino, Laughlin NV: The State of Nevada was very slow in distributing unemployment benefits and as a result, I incurred an additional loss of money due to late fees and had to also ask people for assistance and borrow money at a cost.


From Brian P. Monahan, BPM Lighting Designs, West Hollywood, CA: The sudden and extreme loss of work is a shock that has been hard to deal with especially financially. There was a hope we would see work returning this fall, but that is now out of the question with Broadway, West End and most national entertainment venues now closed thru early 2021 and maybe April 2021. I have cobbled together enough funding to make it thru the end of this year.. but if work does not return by January I will have to tap retirement or investment accounts to survive.


From Frank Burton, president, Event Ignition, San Antonio, TX: This industry has taken a serious hit from a lack of foresight in how to handle the shutdown and resulting economic fallout. While the focus has been on large corporations it was the small to medium sized local businesses that should have been the focus as they are a direct influence in their local markets.


From TJ Essig, Polaris Lighting, Inc., Easton, PA: This industry no longer exists, until people can gather safely, it will continue to be non-existent. I hate saying it because it makes me come to terms with the hard fact that I might not make it through.


From Dale Henry, Ozark Mountain Leasing: This is crippling the economy as a whole. Business large and small are suffering. Restlessness and concern are in the air, wondering what the future holds. The entertainment industry unfortunately will be the last to get a second look. Years will be spent trying to return from what the government has torn down in just a few months due to the lack of control/containment from the very beginning. Best part is that they are yet to tell the Covid-19 is not going away regardless of how long they keep everyone under their stay at home, mask, sanitizer, testing, we’ll have a vaccine soon plan.


From Adam Raugh, X-Laser: We have been able to slow the bleeding a bit by diversifying and developing products for the cannabis industry and the film/television production industry. As far as lighting sales go, June was our best sales month since February. Our gross revenues in June on lighting products were higher than March, April and May combined. This was not a single large sale, but a large number of smaller ones focused on our retail products. We still don’t expect major productions to be back for a long time, but it’s encouraging that the smaller projects seem to be picking back up.


From Thom Mathis, TRM Technical Services: While 100% of my business for the last few months has dried up completely, I am seeing optimism and even a couple of possible bookings for shows in the late summer/fall Still far under my normal numbers, but it’s something!







The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!