NIVA and the Hope of "Save Our Stages"
Independent venues are coming together as they try to survive the pandemic
There’s an undeniable energy to seeing a massive show at a legendary amphitheater like Red Rocks or the Hollywood Bowl. If one loves the band enough, you can even sit in a football stadium with terrible sound and have a great time.
For me, though, nothing beats a small club show. It’s an excellent opportunity to see an up and coming artist climb the ladder or ask yourself how a popular band is playing to a few hundred people. The atmosphere is unbeatable, the sound is loud, and the bathroom line is nonexistent. Small venues are irreplaceable.
Covid has affected everyone worldwide, and as we watch almost every industry struggle to survive the pandemic, no other has been hit as hard as the live entertainment industry. When artists can’t tour, an entire ecosystem of jobs is wiped out.
Since concert venues were the first to close and will most definitely be the last to open, independent clubs are on their knees. Giants like AEG and Live Nation will be fine; their global portfolios cover most of your favorite larger arenas. But there are thousands of independent venues across the country that do not have multibillion-dollar backing from the fat cats.
Enter the National Independent Venue Association. A group of over 3,000 independent venues across the country, NIVA, was formed to lobby congress for assistance as they have no way of being open and have brought in no money since March.
The reality is dismal - per NIVA’s June survey, 90% of independent clubs are a few months from closing. These venues weren’t able to take advantage of PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans, as their payrolls have already been cut to zero and didn’t apply to the guidelines.
Last month brought good news from Congress - buried in the latest Covid relief bill was the Save Our Stages Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Amy Klobuchar and John Cornyn. It contains $15 billion for independent venues, museums, and zoos. The funds will go to the venues, as well as promoters, managers, and agents.
While this will help, it doesn’t cover the people working in the industry. Everything from artists to sound and stage techs to trucking and catering, are not covered. It’s a band-aid, and it will require way more funding.
In the meantime, support your local clubs through buying merch - here are a few favorites of mine:
Skylark Lounge, Denver (currently for sale)
Teragram Ballroom, Los Angeles
The music release calendar is always a barren wasteland for the first few weeks of January, although I enjoyed Steve Earle’s tribute to his late son, as well as the new Kid Cudi record. Because of this, I was looking forward to putting the spotlight on NIVA and Save Our Stages, but Wednesday’s insurrectionist attack on the Capitol makes it hard to be excited about congress and bipartisanship. Our entire country is hurting, and helping to save independent venues will be something we’re thankful for when the pandemic is in the past.
Recognize truth. Recognize science. Care for your neighbor and speak up for those that do not share your privilege. May we look to brighter days returning.