Denver’s creative and music industries are suffering massive pandemic-induced losses

New reports detail job and revenue losses in the age of COVID-19.
4 min. read
The Bluebird has a message for you. (Bluebird Theater on Instagram)

Denver's creative industries have taken a massive hit since the beginning of the pandemic. And because of two new reports released by Denver Arts & Venues, Colorado Creative Industries and a team at Colorado State University, we know just how big that hit is.

One report shows that the city has lost an estimated 29,840 creative-industry jobs, as well as $1.4 billion in sales revenue, between April 1 and July 31.

A second report deals specifically with music industry losses in Colorado at large. Between April 1 and July 31, Colorado's music industry lost an estimated 8,327 jobs, which amounts to a 51 percent loss. The study showed that Denver alone accounted for 4,525 of those jobs, as well as $213.7 million in lost sales revenue.

The reports include full-time employees, freelancers and self-employed and part-time workers. However, the data was not self reported, and because of the informal nature of many creative sector jobs, some industry losses might not have made it in the study.

Michael Seman, an assistant professor of arts management at CSU's LEAP Institute for the Arts, led the team that collected the data. He's worried about live venues, which depend on in-person traffic and often don't have large savings reserved.

"Music venues are very precarious in that successful ones can continue on throughout the year with ups and downs," Seman said. "There's some months you do very well. Some months you don't do so well...but if all of a sudden you have three months where you can't have any shows, most of these don't have that kind of cash reserve to make up for that. Very, very few have that."

The music industry report notes that it's unlikely that venues will be able to reopen until 2021. It also cites an estimation by the National Independent Venue Association that, without serious intervention, 90 percent of music venues all over the country will close their doors for good within six months.

Before the pandemic, Colorado's creative sector was healthy and growing. According to the reports, employment within the state's creative industries grew by 29 percent between 2010 and 2019 and added 21,546 jobs.

"There has to be a greater vision going forward about this sector," said Margaret Hunt, the director of Colorado Creative Industries. "It continues to grow and adapt. And it's a solid employment strategy."

Seman said the losses affect other industries in Colorado.

"It's kind of a snowball effect, because the creative economy is interwoven throughout the entire economy of the state of Colorado and Denver region," he said, adding that Colorado's arts scene is a big draw for tourists, and that people often move here and stay here in part because of it, bringing in revenue for the whole region.

"Losses of this magnitude not only affect the creative and music industries,"  said Lisa Gedgaudas, program administrator for Create Denver, Denver Arts & Venues. "There are many industries intertwined with music, such as food and beverage, tourism and hospitality, and education. "

Seman said that in addition to hurting Colorado's economy, these losses will negatively impact overall communities.

"People call venues, in some cases, secular churches," he said. "They really add to the fabric of the community and strengthen ties within the community. And right now, we're losing that."

Hunt also notes that the arts are essential to communities in Colorado, which boasts 26 creative districts.

"The arts are integral to our identity as people. It's the heart and soul of the community," Hunt said. "It's our way of celebrating, through the arts or music or dance. It's a positive emotional experience. And if ever there was a time that we need positive emotional experiences, it's now."

View the full music industry report here and the creative industry report here.

Recent Stories