As they should be, artists are normally front and center. It’s their outsized or introspective or endearing personalities that regularly dot the pages of this magazine. Musicians create from their experiences and we relate to their humanity.
Meanwhile, the institutions and individuals that quietly and steadfastly power our local music ecosystem behind the scenes may be suffering most from Covid-19-releated closures. Local venues are incubators of artistry and employ more than 4,000 full- and part-time Oregonians, according to the newly established advocacy group Independent Venue Coalition of Oregon. The IVC is headed by Jim Brunberg, founder of Mississippi Studios, Polaris Hall and Revolution Hall, and he’s been quick to highlight that venues were the first to close, and they’ll be the last to open. Many venues may never reopen again without direct financial assistance from the government.
It’s been inspiring to see, in a matter of days, thousands of independent venues across the nation form the National Independent Venue Association. More than 30 Oregon venues and promoters are part of this coalition, many of them staunch supporters of this publication. Both groups call for citizens to implore our elected officials to provide relief for this imperative industry and cultural asset.
Portland loves to tout its fierce, forward-thinking independence, and whether you realize it or not, this ethos extends to our venues and the folks who book and promote the shows. The vast majority are small, locally grown operations—some with decades of experience, run by real Portland people who know the history and identity of our music scene. Many are vestibules of regional knowledge and lore who came up in the scene themselves, eventually (or, in actuality, never wholly) making the transition to the business side of the industry.
Vortex works with, and depends upon, many of these individuals for advertising dollars, as well as access for our journalists and photographers to cover events. Our city’s artists and concertgoers rely upon their understanding of community, that our music scene is not purely about competition and commerce: It’s about raising all ships.
Thankfully, we don’t have corporations controlling our venues in town, although Live Nation has been knocking on the door—and the current hardships independent businesses face only make it easier for predatory outsiders to enter. We need numerous independently owned venues and festivals specializing in different areas to give opportunities to groups of various sizes and affiliations.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about how our music scene will come out the other side of this. Artists will give up their pursuit of music in lieu of a steady day job. Labels and studios will go out of business. Venues will shutter.
Just like a devastating forest fire enables new growth, germination that would be impossible without the preceding destruction, our community too will rise. Not without changes, but it will persevere.
In salute to those who have supported us most over the years, we will do our damndest to ensure your place in Portland’s future. And we ask you to do the same.
Chris Young Editor-In-Chief