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Denver's Creative Economy Lost 29,840 Jobs and $1.4 billion in Revenue

Levitt Pavilion won't return in 2020.
Levitt Pavilion won't return in 2020.
Jake Cox

While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Colorado in many ways, the music industry and creative sector have been hit particularly hard, according to recent studies.

Denver Arts & Venues partnered with Colorado State University on the "2020 City of Denver Creative Economy Report with Initial Impacts of the COVID-19 Crisis," and, along with Colorado Creative Industries, "Initial Impacts of the COVID-19 Crisis on the Music Industry in Colorado and the Denver Metropolitan Region."

Both reports detail the effects of the pandemic, estimating that Denver’s creative industries have lost around 29,840 jobs and $1.4 billion in estimated sales revenue between April 1 and July 31, while Colorado’s music industry lost approximately 8,327 jobs between April 1 and July 31, representing a 51 percent loss.

Michael Seman, assistant professor of arts management at Colorado State University’s LEAP Institute for the Arts and a research associate at the Regional Economic Development Institute, who prepared both reports, says a big takeaway is that the absence of live music is devastating to the industry and the fabric of the city.

“Going out to see shows is a great part of the social scene of Denver,” Seman says. Taking that away not only hurts the livelihood of musicians, but also people running the venues and those operating lights, sound and security. "It also takes away this social driver for the entire city.”

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While Seman says the estimated losses in the music-industry study are substantial, they are also most likely conservative, as the report doesn’t include a large part of the local industry that is off the books, like bands or sound engineers paid in cash.

On top of that, Seman says many in the creative community lost multiple jobs because of the pandemic — for example, someone who plays in a band, bartends at a venue and works on films.

Lisa Gedgaudas, Denver Arts & Venues Create Denver program administrator, hopes the data from the reports can help the city's creative industries get federal and philanthropic funding. While Arts & Venues recently received $1 million as part of the CARES Act ($300,000 will be dedicated to artists and the other $700,000 will go to creative businesses and performing arts venues, including music venues), the creative industries will still need more funds to survive.

“We only have so much of a window to fight for creative industries funding from federal dollars before this is going to get really challenging,” Gedgaudas says.

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