VERNON, Calif. – If you’ve attended a major concert or live event in the last two decades, chances are Jay Curiel and his team were there but you didn’t know it.
“We would set up all the microphones and the video and the lighting and we would make it all work,” Curiel said.
His crews are often the first to arrive and the last to leave, often invisible to the public.
“We’ve done everything from the Pope – five stadiums in Mexico – to major festivals across the United States, the Ultra Festival, E.D.C. in Las Vegas,” he said.
Ever since Curiel was a young boy, he’s loved all things audio, even setting up microphones at church as an alter boy. That passion led him in 2004, to create a full-service event company called 3G Productions. They have offices in L.A., Las Vegas, and Miami. Typically, each location sets up about 12 events a week. But when the pandemic hit in March, every single booking disappeared from their calendars.
“There’s not even a job that I can even say we have right now,” Curiel said. “It’s been cleaned out.”
The live event industry employs more than 12 million people, generating over $1 trillion in the U.S. economy each year, according to We Make Events, a coalition advocating for the live events industry due to COVID-19. Since large gatherings are banned during the pandemic, the industry has come to a standstill and forced Curiel to layoff or furlough most of his 80 full-time staff and 700 part-time employees.
“We don’t turn around employees quickly and just looking at them, I’ve seen them grow their families, grow their lives directly,” he said. “And it’s affected me directly hard, really hard,” he said.
He even had to lay off his son, Roman, who was hired in January.
“I waited so many years to finally be at a place where I’ve always wanted to be, since I’ve graduated high school,” Roman said. “And then to be here only two months and then have the work stop, it’s a shocker.”
The recent college graduate grew up in the business, following his dad around at concerts at the age of 5 and learned how to run a sound board by the time he was 7-years-old. He was also involved in a theater program at his high school, working as the lead sound technician. Roman says it’s devastating to see his dad and coworkers struggle.
“Just watching my other coworkers kind of like ask themselves, what do we do? Where do we go from here? This is our livelihood,” Roman said. He spends his days volunteering at the office while his dad worries the company will only last a few more months without any federal aid. Curiel received two small business loans over the past few months, including the PPP loan, but those funds have since run out.
“We were there for 9/11. We were there for Farm Aid. These are all benefit concerts that have happened throughout the years that our industry has been there. We’ve always been there to help. We’ve always been there to collect for the need,” Curiel said. “And now that it’s time for us to ask for help and that we are in need, we’re not getting it. No one is looking at us.”
In the meantime, Curiel isn’t sitting idle. He and others in the live event industry are part of a growing movement called #RedAlertRESTART, which calls on Congress to pass the RESTART Act, which would establish a new loan program to help businesses hit hard by the pandemic and provide funding to cover six months of expenses.
Curiel also put his equipment to use and created a studio inside his facility where artists can perform and live stream their shows with professional sound and audio. He hopes it will generate some work for his remaining employees and help keep the lights on a little longer.