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City Launches Shop to the Beat Program to Support Small Retail Businesses and Local Musicians

Office of Economic Development invests in new economic recovery program to activate commercial corridors and support creative economy workers.

The Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED) is announcing a new recovery program financed by the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (CLFR), that will support small retail businesses, local musicians and commercial corridors throughout the city. Shop to the Beat will match local musicians with small retail businesses to provide in-store performances during peak business hours, help increase foot traffic and sales for retailers, and provide competitive pay for musicians who lost significant income due to the impacts of COVID-19. OED is partnering with Gigs4U — a local organization that curates artists and produces live music performances in traditional and non-traditional settings including SeaTac airport, corporate venues and events, virtual events, and more — to match interested musicians and small retail businesses.

“The COVID-19 pandemic was devastating for so many of Seattle’s small businesses — especially those within our creative industries. The Office of Economic Development has worked hard to listen to business owners, workers, and community to develop programs like Shop the Beat to support those who need it. As we begin to recover, Seattle is stepping up once again to support small businesses and our community to help them build back better from this pandemic,” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan.  

Shop to the Beat performances will begin on November 27 for Small Business Saturday and continue throughout the holiday shopping season to provide a unique shopping experience for patrons and economic benefit for businesses and musicians. This initial pilot launch will capitalize on increased foot traffic and revenue generated during the holiday shopping season. OED intends to launch the second phase of this program in 2022 to capitalize on spring and summer activities. Small retail businesses and local musicians interested in participating in the program can learn more and apply by visiting our Shop to the Beat website. Small retail businesses can participate in this program for free. Additionally, OED, Gigs4U and other partners will conduct outreach to small businesses and musicians for enrollment and placement — particularly Black, Indigenous and other musicians of color, small businesses owned by Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, and businesses located in underserved neighborhoods.  

“Economic recovery requires us to think creatively and try programs that are innovative. Shop to the Beat is a notable example of investing in our artists, businesses and communities,” said Pamela Banks, Interim Director of the Seattle Office of Economic Development. 

Photo of a Black DJ’s hand adjusting the volume on the turntable at an event.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire arts sector, economic impacts have been especially long lasting for performing artists. The near complete shutdown of performance venues for more than a year severely limited performing artists’ ability to generate income. Analysis from the Brookings Institute estimated losses of more than $2.3 million jobs and $74 billion in average monthly earnings for the creative occupations. These losses represent 30% of all creative occupations and 15% of total average monthly wages. Creative occupations in the fine and performing arts — which include the visual arts, music, theater and dance — were disproportionally affected, representing roughly a third of wage employment losses.

“This program is going to be such an uplift to performers who haven’t been able to get back onto our live stages as quickly, and businesses who will bring this new live experience into their shops with who may be their new (or already) music favorites. What an exciting thing to be able to combine music and shopping for a whole holiday experience! I’m interested to see how this looks as it grows into 2022,” said local entertainer and Seattle Music Commissioner, Adra Boo. 

More than 18 months later, COVID-19 variants continue to delay return to office plans from major employers and have kept the public largely “at home.” For downtown neighborhoods like Pioneer Square, Chinatown-International District, Westlake/Pike Place, Belltown and South Lake Union, the decline in tourism, travel, convention and special event cancellations in addition to the loss of office workers exacerbated the reduction of foot traffic and reliable customer base that support our hospitality, food service and retail small businesses. As of June 2021, small business revenue in the Seattle metropolitan area was 35% lower than in January 2020, just prior to the initial economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Operating expense data provided through Small Business Stabilization Fund (SBSF) applications in 2020 showed that business owners of color reported larger revenue losses than white business owners, and Latino/a/x business owners reported larger losses than non-Latino/a/x business owners. 

“Gigs4U has always been dedicated to finding paid gigs for musicians and during these challenging times, we are more impassioned than ever,” said Ramona Lisa Beeson, Gigs4U Owner and Programming Director. “Helping to provide more opportunities for Black, Indigenous and people of color is vital to healthy recovery for all of our communities. We encourage all musicians to participate in our programs, including those from these underserved communities.” 

The City continues to invest in efforts to support economic recovery for small businesses, workers, and neighborhoods. In addition to Shop to the Beat, OED has invested more than $7 million in neighborhood recovery grants and $4 million in stabilization grants for small businesses. The City recently announced a $2 million expansion to the Small Business Stabilization Fund to support small businesses and non-profits required to enforce vaccination verification in King County.

Black and white photo of the Seattle skyline and the Space Needle in the background; yellow and pink text over the photo says Shop to the Beat. White text at the bottom left corner notes social media handle @SeattleEconomy