U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced at a press conference on Tuesday that he is co-sponsoring the Save Our Stages Act, a piece of bipartisan legislation introduced earlier this summer which is aimed at providing financial relief to independent venues, promoters, and festivals around the country as regular live shows remain on hold amid the ongoing pandemic. The press conference took place on the sidewalk in front of Brooklyn club Baby’s All Right and featured comments from James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem), National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) executive director Rev. Moose, and more.
The Save Our Stages Act (S. 4258), introduced by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), would provide vital support for independent live music venues that have lost nearly 100% of their revenue since the pandemic began in March. The companion bill in the House (H.R. 7806) is led by Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Roger Williams (R-TX).
“Independent venues, like theaters and concert halls, are the beating heart of New York’s cultural life and a driving force in the economy. These local businesses were among the first to shut down at the start of the pandemic, are struggling to stay afloat, and will be among the last to reopen,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why it’s so important to provide dedicated federal assistance to independent venues so when it is safe, we can gather again for music, comedy, theater and other live performances in venues that have been around for generations. I’m proud to co-sponsor the Save Our Stages Act, and I’ll fight to include federal funding for independent venues in any coronavirus relief legislation.”
[Photo via NIVA – Chuck Schumer speaking at Baby’s All Right]
Noted LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, a longtime Brooklyn resident, “These venues are places that occupy parts of cities that nobody wants to be in when they start. They fill in the gaps and communities spring up around them. They take those warehouses that nobody wanted to be in and they build places that foster the most diverse music scene in the world. Thank you to the venues that let me play and let me work for the 30 years I’ve lived here. We’re not going to be able to rebuild these from zero. You can’t knock out all the mom and pops and think that more mom and pops will spring up. If we knock them out, it’s just chains. Write your senators and ask them to support this bill – it’s critical, or this whole industry is going to go away without it. The very nature of being independent means these people, these centers, don’t have the kind of voice that bigger companies do have – they need your voice, so please do your best to support them.”
Beyond the financial well-being of the venues themselves, the concert shutdown has had a cascading effect on local economies. A Chicago study last year showed that for every $1 spent on a ticket at a local venue, $12 of economic activity was generated for area businesses such as restaurants, retailers, and hotels.
As Rev. Moose explained, “Local independent scenes are the cultural lifeblood of our communities as well as an economic driver throughout America. These mom and pop venues are unable to fully reopen until well into 2021 due to safety concerns posed by large gatherings. These institutions draw most of their revenue from acts that tour the United States, and until it’s safe to gather people en masse, it won’t be possible for venues to bring back their staff, which is one reason why the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) does not work for this industry.”
The proposed legislation would provide Small Business Administration grants for independent live venue operators, promoters, and festivals affected by COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. These grants would provide at least six months of financial support to keep venues afloat, pay employees, and preserve a critical economic sector for communities across the country.
“Although independent music venues have access to PPP loans, the length of this shutdown means that venue owners are unable to utilize these loans in a way to receive forgiveness or pay our overhead costs,” explained Dhruv Chopra of Brooklyn’s Elsewhere. “Federal grants are the best way to keep us afloat. We whole-heartedly thank Senator Schumer for recognizing our value and our plight and he’s fighting to do something about it.”
In Schumer’s home state of New York, The Save Our Stages Act will not only help to save independent concert venues, but independent Broadway stages as well. As NIVA vice president and NYIVA co-founder Justin Kantor of lower Manhattan’s le poisson rouge explained:
Senator Schumer understands the severity of our situation and we applaud him for his co-sponsorship of the Save our Stages act. New York City’s culture is tied inextricably to the city’s sustainability and independent venues are the city’s cultural hubs. From tourism to real estate, our collective economic impact is in the billions. The current situation is devastating and if nothing is done, venues that have been around for decades will go out of business. It’s impossible for any performance space to keep this up for months on end without generating revenue. Live streaming is not the answer and will not even make a dent in a venue’s monthly expenses. Our collective survival is hanging in the balance.
Watch footage of the Tuesday press conference at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right below:
Save Our Stages Press Conference – 8/18/20
Fans wishing to have their voice heard on this topic should go to www.saveourstages.com where they can tell their elected officials that they care about their local independent venues and want them to get assistance until they can reopen safely. So far, more than 1.8 million emails have gone to Congress to let elected officials know their constituents want independent venues to receive the assistance they need so they can reopen when it’s safe.