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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Today is #SaveOurStages Day of Action, and Cleveland's Live Music Scene Needs Your Help

Posted By on Wed, Aug 5, 2020 at 12:29 PM


It’s no secret that without federal help, many of Cleveland's beloved independent live music venues will close forever — but there’s a way to help bar venues, theaters, concert halls and listening rooms.

A bipartisan 'Save Our Stages' Senate bill is up for a vote.

Two weeks ago, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas introduced their co-sponsored "Save Our Stages Act" in the U.S. Senate for voting consideration before the legislative body's upcoming August recess.

The bipartisan bill by this surprising pairing would provide $10 million in funding for six months of short-term economic relief to independent music venues around the country. Aid would be provided to venue operators (and staff, by extension) and promoters.

The problem is that Republican Senator Marco Rubio, Chairman for the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, needs to hear about it.

So venues and promoters are asking live music supporters to take Thursday, July 30 to write emails (send 'em via and post to social media with the following message:

The Save Our Stages Act (S. 4258) is the difference between life and death for shuttered indie music venues, artists, and our ecosystem. PPP will not save us. Senator Rubio, don't let the music die! Make your voice heard TODAY at #saveourstages 

Posters are asked to use the hashtags #saveourstages and tag Rubio on Instagram (@senatormarcorubio), Twitter (@marcorubio) and Facebook.

“Without his support this isn't likely to get done,” an email from the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) says. “This bill will give independent venues and talent reps (agents, managers) the 6-12 (month) funding lifeline they need to survive the pandemic. Without it 90% of venues will close forever!”

Cleveland live music fans can also directly contact Ohio's two senators (Sherrod Brown or Rob Portman) by email or telephone to express your support for the Save Our Stages Act.

The Save Our Stages Act is endorsed by music industry advocacy groups NIVA and the National Independent Talent Organization (NITO).

Music venues were among the very first things to close back in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, and they will be among the last businesses to reopen when and if the country drastically reduces new infections or a vaccine is developed. Recently, Lollapalooza founder Marc Geiger made the dire prediction that he doesn't even see concerts returning in earnest until 2022.

Some of the particulars of Save Our Stages economic aid package to venues include:

  • Establishes a $10 billion grant program for live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives
  • Narrowly define independent live venue operators, promoters, and talent representatives to prevent large, international corporations from receiving federal grant funding
  • Directs the Small Business Administrator to make grants to eligible recipients equal to the lesser of either 45% of gross revenue from 2019 or $12 million
  • Allows the Small Business Administrator to issue supplemental grants in the future if funding remains available and applicants can demonstrate continued need
  • Permits recipients to use grants for costs incurred during the COVID pandemic
  • Permits recipients to use grants for rent, utilities, mortgage obligations, PPE procurement, payments to contractors, regular maintenance, administrative costs, taxes, operating leases, and capital expenditures related to meeting state, local, or federal social distancing guidelines

The introduction of this bill follows months of lobbying by NIVA, scores of prominent musicians, and even corporations like Spotify and YouTube, all touting the economic value of independent venues, which foster thriving music scenes and touring ecosystems around the country.

In addition to the Save Our Stages Act, NIVA also supports the RESTART Act.

“The warning light is flashing red and our only hope is for legislation like Save Our Stages Act or RESTART Act to be passed before Congress goes on August recess," says Dayna Frank, president of NIVA and CEO of First Avenue Productions. "Otherwise, most businesses in this industry will collapse."

On July 14, NIVA sent a letter to Sen. Rubio, House Committee on Small Business Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez and ranking members on the Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship in the Senate, Sen. Ben Cardin, and the House Committee on Small Business, Ohio's State Rep. Steve Chabot, to ask them to support the RESTART Act, which would open up new loan options for businesses suffering as a result of the pandemic. The letter was also signed by major music companies Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group, along with Spotify, Amazon Music and YouTube.

The letter, which you can read in full here, says:

Under normal circumstances, these mom-and-pop entrepreneurial businesses fuel about $9 billion a year into local economies throughout the U.S. Due to the national routing of most tours, this industry will not recover until the entire country is open at 100% capacity. NIVA members need assistance in order to survive until that day. This relief is critical for our nation’s artists, too, as they derive 75% of their income from touring. They will need a place to play — and not in boarded-up buildings — when the world opens up again. These independent venues are the unassuming, unsung heroes of the music industry where developing artists get their start, hone their craft, and build a following. Without these venues, there are no arena acts or major festivals and the music economy will be in further peril.

Before it’s too late, Congress must take quick and specific action to address the unique circumstances of this still-shuttered component of the small business sector. We are asking you to support NIVA’s request for assistance so these venues can live long enough to reopen when it’s safe — and once again serve as the economic engines that fuel local economies. 

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Friday, July 31, 2020

Trump to Host Fundraiser in Cleveland Aug. 6, $35,000 for a Photo with the President

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 1:35 PM

  • Emanuel Wallace

Ideastream and other local outlets have reported that President Donald Trump intends to host a fundraiser in Northeast Ohio on Aug. 6.

An online event description sets the price tiers for attendance. $5,600 gets you in. $35,000 gets you a photo with Trump. $100,000 gets you a photo and access to a roundtable discussion with the President. reports that the location is likely to be the Shoreby Club in Bratenahl and that Chicago Cubs owner Todd Ricketts and television personality Kimberly Guilfoyle are scheduled to make celebrity appearances.

WKYC reports that Lake County businessman Ed Crawford will be among the local hosts. Ideastream heard that local investment banker and former GOP candidate Mike Gibbons is also among them.

The fundraiser news comes shortly after it was announced that Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic would co-host the first presidential debate between Trump and Joe Biden on Sept. 29 at the new Health Education Campus (HEC). Case and Clinic stepped in when Notre Dame University backed out. Biden is now also airing ads in Ohio, which for months was thought to be in the bag for Trump. 

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Local Singer-Songwriter Sean Benjamin Teams Up with British Artist for New Music Video

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 11:52 AM

  • Courtesy of Sean Benjamin
Born and raised in Cleveland, singer-songwriter Sean Benjamin got his start after he went to an open mic night at an Arabica coffeehouse and, as he puts it, “got bit by the bug.”

Initially, he just recorded his songs in his basement and sold the CDs at live shows. He released I Exist, his first studio-produced record, in 2011, and has steadily performed and recorded ever since.

Just today, he released Find Your Own Way Out, a new three-song EP.

“This was originally written as a single song with two parts, 'Find Your Own Way Out/Bring Love My Way,' but was split to accommodate a third instrumental piece to be added and to allow more listener control,” he says in a release about the EP, which showcases his distinctly husky voice and blues sensibilities. “It's a bit different than my other stuff, but I think it's a bit of a more matured version of my style. I do anticipate reverting to immaturity in the future in order to release more of my back catalogue.”

The Robbie Robertson-like title track serves as a “bluesy indictment of a former relationship from the perspective of someone who is fed up with unreciprocated effort and acts of devotion.” "Bring Love My Way" centers on "an upbeat flirtatious quest to fill the void with a new relationship based on the same type of intoxicating crush that built its predecessor."

"The song references former flames and crushes, both real and fictitious, itching to find a passion that could ignite a fiery new love story," says Benjamin of "Bring Love My Way." "The final track is an instrumental reimagining of the opening song. The blues influence is even more pronounced in this rumination of being left feeling empty and out of control. Only after allowing the emotions to ebb and flow can the fog of withdrawal dissipate.”

Benjamin has also released a music video for the Pink Floyd-inspired “Find Your Own Way Out (reprise).” The video features motion artwork from British artist Stefania Buzatu, and the artwork compares favorably to the pour painting artwork by Benjamin's mother that he used for the EP cover art.

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Cleveland’s MILAN Named Finalist in International Remix Competition

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 10:38 AM

  • Courtesy of MILAN
Just this week, local musician Victoria “Tori” Kurtz, who records and performs as MILAN, became a finalist in a prestigious international remix competition sponsored by the UK indie pop act Glass Animals. She's one of 11 finalists out of 400.

The grand prize winner will have his or her remix released on Spotify in a collaboration with Glass Animals.

“Working with [Glass Animals singer] Dave Bayley’s voice had such an inspiring effect on me,” says Kurtz in a press release. “It was so emotionally moving and gave me such energy. There was a moment where everything clicked when I was producing the 'Heat Waves' remix when the atmospheric quality of sound began coming together in a way that produced a powerful synergy.”

Glass Animals lead singer Dave Bayley chose MILAN’s remix of the group’s hit single “Heat Waves.”

“It’s great,” he says of her remix. “It’s quite tropical. I feel like I’m in Ibiza, probably wearing all white, my shirt fluttering in the wind.”

After learning about her finalist status earlier this week, MILAN said, “Just to have them [Glass Animals] listen to my music is such a high honor and a dream come true!”

MILAN has worked as a musician, sound designer and producer since her high school days at Walsh Jesuit in Cuyahoga Falls.

She currently lives in Independence, where her father, Gregory P. Kurtz, is the mayor.

She released her self-titled debut in 2016 and has produced two full-length music videos available on YouTube. Last year at this time, she headlined the Rock Hall’s Wednesday night outdoor concert series. She plans to release a new album later this year.

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Tabletop Board Game Cafe Reopens With Added Safety Measures

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 10:09 AM


Tabletop Board Game Cafe in Ohio City is reopening with plexiglass dividers, reduced capacity and a reservations-only operation.

"These rules will be enforced by staff and management. We're taking this stuff seriously because your safety is important to us and our staff's safety is important to us. We want to thank Cleveland for the love we've been shown over the past five years, allowing us to share in your fun and games. Tabletop is truly a place of joy for us and for so many, and we feel lucky for the opportunities we've had. We know there are challenges to being open right now that other restaurants are not facing, but we're doing our best to meet the challenge and go above and beyond," they announced this week.

Among the added precautions:

- We're requiring reservations. Reservations for 2, 3, or 4 hour blocks can be made at This is so that we can safely control the number of people in the cafe at one time.
- We've reduced our capacity to about 1/3 of our previous capacity.
- Tables have been spaced out to keep groups separated, and we've installed large plastic barriers between tables to help prevent the spread of germs.
- Masks are required at all times while in the cafe, while not actively eating or drinking. If you're playing games for a while at your table, you'll still need to have a mask on the whole time.
- We're limiting the number of customers who can browse the game shelf at one time, and requiring customers to wear gloves while browsing.
- After a game is played, it will be thoroughly sanitized and/or quarantined for a minimum of three days before being returned to the shelf to prevent surface contamination.
Make a reservation at

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Attention Hipsters: Coca-Cola Launches Topo Chico-Branded Hard Seltzer

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 9:04 AM

  • Coca Cola

Coca-Cola this week announced its first foray into alcoholic beverages — a Topo Chico hard seltzer slated for a 2021 U.S. launch, CNBC reports.

The new drink will be sold in select cities in Latin America later this year.

Topo Chico is a Texas cult phenomenon, surely, but Coke has been expanding its distribution since the beverage company acquired the brand in 2017.

White Claw and Truly hold most of the market share in the hard seltzer space, and other brands have launched competing versions to keep up. During quarantine, data and insight company Nielsen reported that sales of hard seltzers sold off premise grew 288% during the week ended April 18 alone.

Coke said it would share more details about Topo Chico Hard Seltzer closer to the launch.

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Ohio Sees Second Week of Decline In Initial Jobless Claim Numbers

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 9:02 AM

  • Christopher Burns/unsplash

The Ohio Department of Job & Family Services reported Thursday that 1,557,787 Ohioans have filed for unemployment in the last 19 weeks, which is more than the combined total of the three previous years.

But this is the second straight week in a row the state has seen a decline in initial jobless claims.

Last week accounted for 27,937 initial jobless claims — down from 30,138 initial jobless claims the week before, and down even more from the 35,422 initial jobless claims for the week ending July 11. In the same week, 423,452 Ohioans filed continuous unemployment claims, which is 352,850 claims fewer than this year’s peak.

The ODJFS has distributed over $5.7 billion in unemployment compensation benefits over the last 19 weeks to over 764,000 Ohioans. It has also issued more than $4.7 billion in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to about 492,000 claimants.

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which provided an additional $600 a week to recipients, expired July 25 and needs Congressional authorization to continue.

ODJFS also noted that they work with 22 comprehensive and 66 affiliate OhioMeansJobs centers in the state for those currently seeking employment.

"Individuals can visit or contact their local OhioMeansJobs center to find and apply for job openings, take skill and career interest assessments, create or improve their resumes, and practice interviewing," reads the release.

Nationally, 1,434,000 people filed initial claims for unemployment for the week ending July 25, an increase of 12,000 from the previous week’s number, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor.

For the week ending July 18, the department reported that 17,018,000 Americans were receiving unemployment compensation, up 867,000 from the previous week.

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