Live From Here with Chris Thile another casualty of COVID-19

As we examine the toll taken on the music industry from the COVID-19 shutdowns, we must sadly add the popular radio program, Live From Here, hosted by mandolin wizard Chris Thile. It was announced today that the show was cancelled, effective immediately.

Live From Here, which had been broadcast by Minnesota Public Radio and syndicated on nearly 600 PBS stations in the US this past four years, was the follow-on to the long running A Prairie Home Companion, whose Saturday time slot it inherited when that show went dark. It was also widely distributed online, and to Armed Forces Radio, reaching an estimated 2.6 million listeners each week.

But MPR reported today that they are facing a dramatic monetary shortfall, and have had to make numerous cuts in both programming and personnel.

In a statement today addressing the situation, they say…

“As a result of the widespread economic turmoil and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, MPR and American Public Media (APM) are facing a large and unexpected financial challenge.

Like all our media peers, over the past few months, some of our revenue sources have dramatically and simultaneously declined, particularly from regional and national underwriting, corporate sponsorship, national program distribution, ticketed events, custom travel, financial investments, and other earned income. While recent MPR and APM member drives and emergency fundraising efforts have been successful, with gifts from our Board and other donors, the generosity of our valued contributors is unfortunately not enough to offset the rapid loss of revenue we are experiencing.”

In addition to a reduction of 28 staff members, several programs and podcasts were on the chopping block, including Live From Here. Though the show presented a wide variety of contemporary music, Thile’s quick wit and mandolin playing was central to every episode, and Punch Brothers were frequent guests, along with many other artists on the bluegrass fringes.

In a message to fans this afternoon, Chris expressed his sorrow over this decision, but shared some positive thoughts as well.

“And again I say AHOY!!! This message is for anyone out there who has made Live from Here a regular part of their listening lives. Not one live broadcast has gone by where I didn’t thank my absurdly lucky stars for your wide open ears and hearts. Over the weekend, I was informed that American Public Media will no longer be producing the show. While this news fills me with sadness, I understand the decision, as my extraordinary teammates and I conceived of Live from Here as a celebration of live, collaborative audible art, and there’s just no telling when it could be that again.

Speaking of my teammates (both on-air and behind the scenes), nothing you’ve heard over the last four seasons would have been possible without their boundless ingenuity, and inexhaustible drive. I’ve been in awe of them every step of the way, and will forever be grateful to have shared the stage AND the office with them.

Though it turns out this past episode of Live from Here was our last new show, I know we’ll have many, many more music-filled evenings together by and by, and I’d like to propose a toast: to all you listeners out there. Thank you. It’s time for this noise-maker to follow your lead.

Love y’all, stay safe!”

So long, Live From Here. It seems we barely knew you.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.