Co-founder Cory Hajde bounces back from a likely coronavirus infection with hopes of resuming shows in Columbus and Cleveland sometime this summer

BravoArtist co-founder Cory Hajde spent much of his time in late March and early April rebooking concerts that will need to be rescheduled yet again, assuming they take place at all.

“Yesterday we got our first email [from a band’s management] canceling a couple of June shows that we had on the books,” said Hajde, whose company had initially moved some scuttled March dates, including a Big Room Bar stop from New York emo collective Oso Oso, to early June — an increasingly unlikely timeline as Gov. Mike DeWine slowly begins to ease the “stay at home” regulations that have shuttered much of the state since late March. “And then everything we rebooked for July, all of those agents have been coming back to us to push to either September [2020] or March of next year.”

But while larger gatherings could be endangered preceding medical advancements — “When you work in an industry that’s focused on clustering as many people as you can into a room, the only realistic timeline where I can see everything falling back into place is when they have a vaccine,” Hajde said — the promoter and artist manager remains optimistic that smaller shows could resume as early as this summer, pending the easing of restrictions and with the understanding that the spaces will need to be run differently for the foreseeable future. These changes could include everything from more stringent sanitation policies within venues, as well as making masks a requirement both for staffers and attendees, to capping rooms somewhere around half-capacity in order to allow needed space for social distancing among concertgoers.

“We’re not just going to say, ‘OK, we can sell 300 tickets now, legally, so we should go into a 300-cap room and pack it out,’” Hajde said. “That’s not realistic, nor is it smart. We need to be aware of what is a good decision for our patrons, and what is needed to keep people healthy.”

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Hajde has a unique perspective on this aspect of the virus, having recently completed two weeks of self-quarantine for what doctors believed to be COVID-19, a stretch during which he lost his sense of smell and suffered through multiple days with a fever that spiked to 103 degrees. At the tail end of the 10-day episode, he developed a cough so persistent that it kept him up at night. “I scheduled a virtual doctor’s appointment, and they were like, ‘Yeah, it’s safe to assume you have [the coronavirus], but don’t go to the hospital unless it gets to a point where you can’t breathe normally,’” Hajde said. 

Now healthy, Hajde has been able to return his full attention BravoArtist, which has been financially stung by the ongoing event ban but remains well-positioned following what he termed “a couple of good business decisions” in 2019. Up to this point, the business, which is focused on the Columbus and Cleveland markets, hasn’t laid off any full-time staffers, and Hajde said he has even been able to advance money to some part-time employees, owing in part to the roughly $11,000 generated by recent sales of BravoArtist branded T-shirts and tote bags — a first for a company that had previously resisted marketing itself, preferring to keep the focus on the musicians with which it does business.

“And I think that paid off, because we’d never done it in our seven years [as a company],” said Hajde, who worked with illustrator and CCAD grad Matt Massara to create the designs, which were then printed by a Cleveland company run by Heart Attack Man drummer Adam Paduch.

Hajde plans to take a similar, community-minded approach whenever concert restrictions ease, with early bills focused on boosting local acts. “We want to start putting some money back in those peoples’ pockets after what they’ve been through,” he said. “That's all we can do, along with abiding by the mandates and trying to create the safest environment possible for people. Those are our goals right now.”