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OP-Ed: Save our stages

John Cornyn- R (TX)

Beyoncé, Willie Nelson, Robert Earl Keen, Selena, George Strait, Usher, Kenny Rogers, Erykah Badu, and Roy Orbison.

You’ve likely heard of a few, if not all, of these music icons. But did you know that before they hit the world stage, all these musicians got their start right here in Texas?

When Willie Nelson was first starting out, he landed a gig at the old Esquire Ballroom in Houston while also moonlighting as a DJ. But Floore’s Country Store in Helotes, Texas takes credit as his “musical birthplace” for promoting his iconic style after Nashville rejected it.

In high school, Roy Orbison and his friends performed at honky-tonks around Fort Worth as they learned the ins and outs of the music industry.

Local live music venues are so important for musicians and artists getting their start, but with coronavirus shutting down most of our venues across the country, the next generation of Texas’ music icons can’t get that kind of exposure.

It’s a sad fact. As much as it pains us, it isn’t safe to go to a concert right now, and we all know that Zoom shows and livestreams just aren’t the same.

But while it’s sad for us who can’t hear our favorite bands in person, this situation is even worse for the Texans who play and host these shows.

So many concert halls and honky-tonks across the country are treading water as their business evaporated almost overnight because of the pandemic. Texas musicians and the venues they fill are in dire need of our help.

That’s why I’ve introduced the Save Our Stages Act to keep these venues afloat so once we are able to put this virus behind us, beautiful Texas live music will buzz once again.

90% of venue owners, promoters, and bookers are at risk of closing for good without additional assistance, estimating $9 billion in losses if ticket sales don’t pick back up until 2021.

This is a stressful and scary moment for the Texans who work at and frequent our favorite venues, but the Save our Stages Act can make sure these Texas treasures get the funds they need to stay open so they can help us discover the next great bands and artists in our state.

Legendary places like Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, The REO Palm Isle near Longview, and The Kessler Theater in Dallas have been home to unforgettable shows for decades, and we owe it to our future artists and musicians to make sure these places stay open and continue our proud history in music.

Music is a part of Texas’ DNA, and while sadly we can’t all gather together at a concert right now, the least we can do is help folks rest easy knowing that our favorite places to catch some live music will be there for us once we can.

Times are tough for all of us right now, but I’d urge you to remember a great quote from a fellow Texan: “the road goes on forever and the party never ends.”

Although the stage lights have dimmed on that party for now, I’m confident that one day soon we’ll pick it back up again for an encore.

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.