800+ independent venues across the country have banded together to form the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), which will attempt to secure financial aid to preserve the ecosystem of independent venues and promoters.
A mission statement posted to the NIVA website explains, “These entertainment hubs are critical to their local economies and tax bases as employers, tourism destinations, and revenue generators for neighboring businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and retail. Independent venues exist in every state across the country; they were the first to be closed, they will be the last to open. The economic recovery process will extend past just reopening the front doors, requiring solutions unique to the industry.”
As of publication time, more than 800 independent venues and promoters had signed on to the NIVA initiative, including Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club; Nashville, TN’s Exit/In; Philadelphia, PA’s World Cafe Live, Birmingham, AL’s Iron City; Los Angeles, CA’s Teragram Ballroom and The Troubadour; San Francisco, CA’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium; Oakland, CA’s Fox Theater; Mill Valley, CA’s Sweetwater Music Hall; Denver, CO’s Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom; New Haven, CT’s College Street Music Hall; St. Augustine, FL’s St Augustine Amphitheatre; Athens, GA’s 40 Watt Club; Chicago, IL’s Chicago Theatre; Indianapolis, IN’s The Vogue; Lexington, KY’s Cosmic Charlie’s; New Orleans, LA’s Blue Nile, d.b.a., Preservation Jazz Hall, Howlin’ Wolf, Republic NOLA, Maple Leaf Bar, and Tipitina’s; Portland, ME’s Port City Music Hall, Portland House of Music, and State Theatre; Pontiac, MI’s The Crofoot Ballroom; Columbia, MD’s Merriweather Post Pavilion; New York’s (le) poisson Rouge, Arlene’s Grocery, Avant Gardner, Baby’s All Right, DROM, The Bowery Ballroom, and The Capitol Theatre; and many more.
On Tuesday, NIVA issued a letter to Congress requesting aid for this ailing sector of the American economy. As Dayna Frank, NIVA board member and owner of Minneapolis’ First Avenue, explains in the introduction to the letter to Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, House of Representatives Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, “Our passionate and fiercely independent operators are not ones to ask for handouts, but because of our unprecedented, tenuous position, for the first time in history, there is legitimate fear for our collective existence.”
“Music venues were the first to close and will be the last to open,” Frank elaborates in the initial announcement of NIVA from last week, “It’s just brutal right now, and the future is predictable to no one. We can’t envision a world without these music venues, so we’ve created NIVA to fight for their ability to survive this shutdown, which we hear could go into 2021. Our first order of business is to push to secure federal funding to preserve the ecosystem of live music venues and touring artists.”
“Independent venues and promoters have a unique set of circumstances that require specialized assistance, so we’ve banded together and secured a powerhouse lobbying firm,” said Gary Witt, CEO of Pabst Theater Group and founding member of NIVA. “Akin Gump has been tapped to represent us, and that telegraphs to Capitol Hill that our needs are serious. Most of us have gone from our best year ever to a dead stop in revenues, but our expenses and overhead are still real, and many will not make it without help. Our employees, the artists, and the fans need us to act. But we are also an important income generator for those around us, bringing revenue to area restaurants, bars, hotels, and retail shops. Our contributions to the tax base far exceed our ticket sales.”
“If the number of venues and promoters that signed up for NIVA membership in the first three days is an indicator – 450 venues in 43 states and Washington, D.C. – we can say the independent venues and promoters might be in dire straits, but they’re motivated to fight for their survival,” said Rev. Moose, co-founder of NIVA and managing partner of Marauder which runs Independent Venue Week in the U.S. “In addition to going to Capitol Hill to seek funds, NIVA will also offer key survival tools to members by sharing resources, information, and providing guidance on the Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program.”
The organization website also cites a number of statistics to highlight the value of these businesses to local and national economies and the losses being incurred by this sector as the nation remains locked down due to the ongoing global health crisis.
Citing a 2017 study by the National Endowment for the Arts, NIVA explains, “The value added by arts and culture to the U.S. economy is ‘five times greater than the value from the agricultural sector.'” Another stat pulled from the National Endowment for the Arts notes that arts and culture contributed “$877.9 billion, or 4.5 percent, to the nation’s gross domestic product that same year.” They also note (per Pollstar) that venues are forecast to lose up to $8.9 billion in revenue if the concert hiatus continues through the end of the year.
[H/T Rolling Stone]