The 8x10 live music venue COVID relief

Unfortunately, it has come to this. The 8x10 needs your help.

For those that don’t know about The 8x10, we are a live music venue in Baltimore, Md. Under various owners, the location in Federal Hill neighborhood has been providing a home for live music since 1983. My wife Abigail Janssens and myself, Brian Shupe have owned and operated it since 2005.

The 8x10 is legendary for its intimacy, its pristine sound, and most of all, its rabid and fiercely loyal fanbase. We get told all the time by bands that we are their favorite venue east of the Mississippi. We have poured our souls into the venue to live up to those standards and provide a fertile ground for bands and audiences to connect seamlessly.

The 8x10 shut its doors on March 13th 2020 and has been dark ever since. Being an entertainment venue, we are going to be the last industry to recover. While bars and restaurants have been open for several months, we just have been permitted to open at 25% capacity.

The problem breaks down into two main issues. Safety and Revenue.


The last thing we are going to do is create a situation where our family of customers, bands, and employees get sick. We have been going back and forth about when would it be safe to open, when the outbreak at The White House happened, that put everything into perspective. How fast it spread, How many people were infected from one little gathering. And that was outdoors. The 8x10 is a small venue. There is hardly any way to socially distance. Even with lower capacity, masks, temperature checks, if someone unknowingly came to a show, The 8x10 would be a super spreader. We couldn’t live with that.


Right now we can open at 25% capacity. Do I want to put my staff at risk of bringing home COVID-19 to their children or elderly parents for 25% of their usual tips? Our doorman is going to have to interact with every single patron multiple times a night, what kind of risk is that? But that isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. Where are we going to get bands? Bands aren’t touring yet out of fear and simply not being able to find enough venues that are allowed to open. Is a band that usually plays to 300 people and makes a couple thousand dollars going to be able to cover the exact same expenses from 25% of their normal ticket sales? And are you the public going to risk coming to shows? What should we do? Should we start charging four times as much for the tickets to make up the difference? We just can’t stomach charging $60 to our faithful patrons for the same show they normally pay $15 to attend. There are no easy answers.


Meanwhile, we are still paying our expenses to the tune of $15,000 a month. Our rent alone is $10k a month. Every month. Our landlord has been very generous to offer us some relief and has promised us he will do everything he can to ensure The 8x10 survives this, but he is struggling too. The 8x10 is all about doing the right thing, and we can’t run out on our commitment to him or any of our other vendors and monthly responsibilities. Rent, Gas & Electric, Insurance, Telephone, Internet, yada yada yada.

We were lucky. We got an emergency relief loan through the government and we have been able to meet our responsibilities up to now. And we can still make it but probably only to the end of the year. But this is a loan, not a grant. It is not a forgivable package, but a loan. That means after working so hard and struggling to serve the community for 15 years, once we had finally pulled our head above water, COVID-19 struck and derailed our retirement plans and now were are once again in debt. The $150,000 dollars that has been keeping The 8x10 from bankruptcy is going to have to be repaid and it is going to come out of Abigail’s and my pocket. It’s the cost of doing business and we know it. But the government is not helping our industry. Live music venues, movie theaters, theaters for plays and musicals are all suffering the most and going to be the last industry to recover. Since there is no second round of loans or aid on the horizon, it has come to this. We have to turn to the people that come to, and play at The 8x10 for help.

We hate the fact that we are asking for charity, but if comes down to begging or letting The 8x10 disappear due to some pandemic…We have no pride. We will do whatever it takes to keep The 8x10 alive for our community of music lovers. There is no shame in that. If there was another way, believe me we would be doing it.


Honestly, we know 2020 has been a screw job on everybody and finances are tough for everyone. We are just hoping that Many Hands Make Light Work. There have been hundreds of thousands of people that have come through the doors of The 8x10. If we can spread the financial burden of keeping The 8x10 solvent over all the people who have come and had their minds blown by the magic coming off the stage, celebrated with their friends a marriage, birth, promotion, birthday, or just that it is a Friday night. If we can spread it out over the thousands of bands that have played there over the years and told us how much they love The 8x10. If everyone who has ever been touched by what The 8x10 does can just donate what they can afford then the burden won’t seem so heavy.

Our bare minimum goal would be to put six more months of expenses into savings. Maybe just maybe by then we will have a vaccine or some semblance of our normal lives back. But in March we were sure it would be over by June. In August we were saying it has to be better by October, yet nothing has changed.

Whatever we can raise we will be grateful for. I can tell you that every cent of the money will go to expenses at The 8x10 first and foremost. If by some miracle we are able to open soon, 100% of the remainder of the money will go to paying back the $150k loan. 

We need your help. We need you to spread this website to every person you know. Do you have a contact with any of the big bands that played The 8x10 back when they were coming up? Send them a link, ask them to give back if they can. Do you have a contact with a music magazine or online community? Represent for us and tell them what we stand for and ask if they can throw us a few.

Please, please know that we are only asking for you to give an amount that makes sense for your situation. Every donation will add up, so please don’t try and be a hero and end up putting strain on your situation.

This is such a horrible situation. We have put 15 years of our blood, sweat, tears, and love into The 8x10. And you have put the same effort into coming and supporting us by seeing show after show. None of us want The 8x10 to go under.


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Brian Shupe 
Baltimore, MD

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