As the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating impact on the live-entertainment industry became clear, independent music venues across the country — the most vulnerable businesses in the live-music industry — came together as NIVA, the now 2,600-member National Independent Venue Association, hired the powerful lobbying firm Akin Gump, and got to work. Last month, Senators Amy Klobuchar (a Democrat) and John Cornyn (a Republican) authored the Save Our Stages act, which requests $10 billion in relief for independent venues.
However, despite a letter signed by everyone from Billie Eilish to Billy Porter to Billy Joel and more than 1.6 million emails sent to legislators, Save Our Stages was just one of many pieces of legislation left of the table as Congress went into recess last week.
The coming weeks are crucial for hundreds of shuttered venues across the country, which include such legendary rooms as Tipitina’s in New Orleans, the Troubador in Los Angeles and the Bitter End in New York — Great Scott in Boston, Threadgill’s in Austin, the Eighteenth Street Lounge in Washington D.C. and Spaceland in L.A. have already closed. NIVA’s Audrey Fix Schaefer tells Variety that these venues “look at the lack of assistance and say, ‘How much more in debt should I go into, waiting for them to get this done?’ Every single week, almost every day, I get emails about a different venue that has said, ‘I just can’t anymore.’”
Some 90% of America’s independent music venues expect to shut down within the next few months if they do not receive federal aid, according to a NIVA poll conducted in June.
Such venues, which do not have the support of a giant corporation like Live Nation or AEG, are especially vulnerable not only because their entire livelihood depends on mass gatherings of people, but because they will be among the last businesses to reopen — and thus are not currently eligible for PPP funding, which is for hiring back employees when a business reopens.
“This isn’t just about art and keeping a nightclub going — independent venues are economic drivers for their communities,” NIVA’s Audrey Fix Schaefer says. “For every dollar spent on a ticket, there’s $12 of economic activity generated for restaurants and parking lots and other businesses.” That government funding “would allow us to hold on until the reopening, and we will be major economic drivers of renewal.”
In the meantime, Schafer spelled out a few things we all can do to help America’s independent music venues:
— If a show is canceled or postponed at an independent venue, don’t request a cash refund. It’s better to ask for a credit for a future show or just donate it to the venue.
— Buy gift cards to your favorite venues.
— Donate to independent venues directly here: https://lyte.com/covid19relief/
— Donate to NIVA’s general operation fund here: https://www.nivassoc.org/support-niva
— Buy merch here:https://www.nivassoc.org/merch
— Contact the following senators via phone calls, social media posts and emails, asking them to co-sponsor the Save Our Stages Act: