Across the country, the pandemic has brought a halt to music venue operations with 90% of them in danger of closing permanently if they don’t receive government assistance. Beloved venues and iconic musical landmarks from the Boulder Theater in Colorado to the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and the Belly Up in San Diego, are at risk of closing their doors for good due to COVID restrictions.
In response, the independent venue community has been hard at work to keep the sector afloat. Earlier this year, Independent Venue Week and the nation’s top independent music venues formed the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) to help #SaveOurStages across the nation by bringing attention to the plight of their sector and call for emergency assistance. And this week, they’re shining the light on their cause even more through Independent Venue Week, happening now through October 30! Enjoy a diverse array of livestream performances and panel discussions with artists and music industry professionals that highlight the breadth of creative, community-building opportunities that independent music venues provide across the country. From Danielle Durack’s poignant indie-pop performance on October 25 to Jinx Jones soothing blues performance on October 28, artists of all backgrounds and genres are showing up to support this valuable cause. If you didn’t have a chance to tune in, make sure to check out previous and upcoming events on independentvenueweek.com.
Putting #SOS in context
Entertainment venues in the U.S were some of the first businesses to close and will likely be some of the last to re-open, shuttering doors and abruptly ending paychecks for thousands of people who work in the live music industry, from production managers to event ushers, let alone the musicians who depend on paying gigs for their livelihoods. The coming weeks could be pivotal for independent stages nationwide, as the U.S Senate prepares to vote on a new COVID-19 stimulus package following the election, which could bring essential relief for this industry. As the weeks go by, we’re reminded that the fight to survive is far from over for this industry.
In July, a bipartisan coalition in the House of Representatives led by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) authored the Save Our Stages Act (S. 4258), a $10 billion relief package that would provide financial assistance to members of NIVA and other presenting organizations. These grants would provide at least six months of financial support to keep independent music venues afloat, pay employees and preserve this invaluable economic sector for communities across the country. Music presenters, including Levitt grantees like the Galva Arts Council (Levitt AMP Galva) and the Berea Arts Council (Levitt AMP Berea), and all eight permanent Levitt venues like Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles, Levitt Pavilion Westport, Levitt Pavilion Dayton, Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks, Levitt Shell Sioux Falls, Levitt Shell Memphis, Levitt Pavilion Arlington and Levitt Pavilion Denver, are advocating for Congress to pass targeted relief funding that would address the needs of music venues. “The federal government is the only pathway we have to solve the issues of the industry,” says Chris Zacher, executive director of Levitt Pavilion Denver and Colorado’s co-captain for NIVA. “We work really hard to make sure that our communities are entertained, our artists have a stage to play on, and we can continue to be an artistic community.”
Crank up the volume
The ongoing advocacy of over 2,000 independent venues and the help from communities across all 50 states have led to strong bipartisan support of the Save Our Stages Act, with more than 160 Congress-people joining the call for emergency assistance to save independent entertainment venues. “All of us believe that independent venues are vital,” says Senator Chuck Schumer. “We need to get them the funding — and I will do everything I can to get this done.” Justin Randi owns the Baked Potato, the oldest operating jazz club in Los Angeles and is one of many independent venues affected. “I never thought such a day would come, but here we are and its standing between continuing on or closing for good,” says Randi. Through SaveOurStages.com, more than two million emails have been sent letting all 538 members of Congress know that communities from coast to coast want to keep independent venues alive.
Foo Fighters frontman, Dave Grohl is one of many artists impacted by the closure of performance venues. Grohl was set to embark on the Foo Fighter’s 25th anniversary tour this year, but like many artists nationwide, the group’s milestone 2020 tour was cancelled. “Washington needs to take a good, hard look at how dire the situation is, but also to look back on their own lives and remember how important music is to them,” says Grohl in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times.
The music community is showing up in full force to support independent venues during this critical time. Earlier this month NIVA partnered with YouTube for Save Our Stages Fest, a free, three-day virtual musical festival to bring awareness to the challenges facing independent venues across the country. The virtual festival featured performances from 35 artists across a wide range of genres, including The Lumineers, Monica, YG, Miley Cyrus and more, recorded at over 25 independent concert venues from the Apollo Theater in New York to Tipitina’s in New Orleans to Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles. This collaborative effort between artists and venues helped raise over $1.2 million for the NIVA Emergency Relief Fund, which is dedicated to supporting vulnerable venues experiencing catastrophic revenue loss. If you didn’t have a chance to tune in, make sure to check out the performances from the SOS Fest on YouTube.
Ways to help keep the music alive
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed a revised “Heroes Act” stimulus package which includes some essential provisions of the original $10 billion Save Our Stages Act. The vote has been tabled until November 9. In the meantime, you can still help support the music venues that have brought so much joy to our lives. Here are three ways you can take action today:
If you’re in a position to lend extra support to help save independent venues, please consider donating directly to the NIVA Emergency Relief Fund. The emergency fund will provide grants to the most vulnerable venues and keep them afloat while Congress decides how to approach relief funding for this sector.
Independent venues will also be taking donations during Independent Venue Week (happening now through October 30). If you are in position to support your local entertainment venue make sure to visit independentvenueweek.com. Also, make sure to check out the live auction that will provide additional funds for the NIVA Emergency Relief Fund.
Treat yourself to some NIVA merch and help keep the music alive. Visit SaveOurStages.com for a wide selection of merchandise. All proceeds will go to the NIVA Emergency Relief Fund.
Contact your elected officials
In addition to any monetary contribution, you can join the millions of people who are calling for Congress to act now. Your voice matters! And as the Senate gets ready to vote on a new stimulus package in the coming weeks, it’s the perfect time to reach out to elected officials and demand support for NIVA and the Save Our Stages Act. You can take action by visiting SaveOurStages.com and completing a quick form that will help you generate a personalized message for your elected official. Help preserve the ecosystem of independent live music venues in your community and across the country by calling upon Congress to help #SaveOurStages.
Thank you for joining in the fight to help keep independent music venues alive, safeguarding the future of countless cultural hubs so we can look forward to enjoying live music together for years to come.