How NIVA is fighting to save live music on Capitol Hill – different4 min read
The coronavirus epidemic led to a ban on mass rallies across the United States, with independent music and comedy venues shutting down first. And according to the guidelines of each state, they will be among the last to open again
Without government funding, about 90% of independent venues – which currently have virtually no income, after paying rent, mortgages, materials, taxes and insurance – will probably close their doors permanently, according to a survey conducted by the National Independent Venue Association.
Now an alliance of 2,000 Washington, D.C., NIVAs in all 50 states was formed at the start of the epidemic, with the goal of providing financial relief for venues and preventing permanent shutdowns as much as possible. Led by top executives at several key locations across the country, NIVA became a 501C (6) business entity and hired Akin Gamp, a top lobbying firm, to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill. One thing has become painfully clear through this process: government assistance is needed to keep independent spaces alive.
NIVA’s demands include passing a restart law to Congress that would finance six months’ salary, benefits and operating expenses, allow flexible use of loan earnings and forgive loans, and implement a seven-year pay-back schedule. In addition, NIVA is seeking various tax credits for ticket refunds, rent or mortgage payments, employee retention costs and safe workplace incentives, as well as unemployment insurance benefits for many of their employees.
But in order to get congressional attention, NIVA communications chief Audrey Fix Schaefer knew support was needed.
“[Akin Gump] Not only have people been able to get bilateral support for us, they know it’s not just about continuing the arts and nightclubs – independent spaces are the economic drivers for their communities, “says Schaefer. Diversity. “For every dollar spent on tickets, ও 12 is generated for restaurants and parking spaces, and 12 12 for other businesses.”
Their efforts have so far had ample support. “From our website – saveourstages.com – people have sent 6,000,000 emails to their legislators, and an electorate has reached every member of Congress,” he said. “The lobbyists said they had never seen it before.” Government funding “will help us hold on until the resumption and we will be the big economic drivers of renewal.”
Schaefer, who was also the communications director for multiple DC-area venues, including the 9:30 Club, Lincoln Theater, The Anthem, and the Marioweather Post Pavilion, also helped bring together a wide range of promotions to prove to musicians how important independent venues are. As their fans.
The first step was to create SaveVostages.com, the first page of which provided a very simple email template for legislators to express their concerns to the public. So far, more than 100,000,000 people have filled out this template, sending emails to all 538 members of Congress. But as the campaign gained momentum on social media, Schaefer and his team realized that they could gain the strength of the stars to make it even stronger.
The result was a letter to Congress signed by musicians and comedians: Billy Joel to Billy Elish, Cher to Andre 3000, The Beach Boys to Dave Garhall.
“We will know that America is‘ back ’when our music venue is filled by enjoying the concerts safely presented by the fans,” the part read. “The experience of live music is tied to the cultural and economic structure of our nation. In fact, 53% of Americans – 172 million of us – attended a concert last year … Individual locations give artists their beginnings, often with most of us performing for the first time.” “
Skiefer says the signatures of these national leading musicians explain how important independent spaces are to the community. “The reason these artists are writing on paper is because they know that without these small spaces they would never have had the opportunity to become superstars.” “Probably no Bruce Springsteen would be without Stone Pony. There is no Lady Gaga and Elton John in New York except his piano bar
So far, Schiffer says NIVA’s efforts have garnered bipartisan support because, above all, independent venues are small businesses that are needed for their own community’s economy.
“What people on both sides of the Isle understand is that small businesses are able to return safely,” Schaefer said. “Our boys own their own business, they put their money into it, they sign personal guarantees. So this means that if the business goes, they go home. “
Referring to the economic incentives that venues provide for their community business, Schaffer wrote in a note, “I don’t want to see in these images what will be under these places and what will it be like to climb and see what it is going to do?” “But on the contrary, if they invest in us and give us a way to be able to hold on until the other end comes out, we will become an economic trigger for the rest of the community,” he says.
Although several venues in regional capacity have recently been allowed to open, Schaefer noted that working with a smaller audience is not a sustainable model.
“There’s something that just opens at about 25% capacity to toe their toe, but they don’t think they can continue it,” says Schaefer. “If you can open it at 25%, the math still doesn’t work.” Your rent is not 25%, you cannot pay 25% to any artist, and the same things are utility and insurance and everything with it. There are a lot of places that are just thinking about 2021 – and this is a gut wrench. “
Even with federal assistance to hold them until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, the sad reality is that the experience of live music – especially when it comes to independent spaces – will not return to normal for the foreseeable future.
“We don’t know what it will look like,” he said. But we want the government to help us determine how to do it safely and to help pay for what we need to do it. “
Additional report by Jem Aswad.