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#SaveOurStages: Small venues band together to stay alive

We’ve written a lot in the past few weeks about the anguish concert goers are dealing with as concerts are postponed or canceled for the foreseeable future

But for every show that’s been nixed is a music venue standing empty. There are bartenders and servers, ticket checkers and security guards and people who work merch tables sidelined. 

This isn’t about the big arenas and stadiums that bring in the massive tours; this is about the little local clubs and concert halls that welcome small and mid-sized bands, the ones that come out and meet fans after the show. 

And COVID-19 is threatening their existence. 

In the United States, more than 1,300 venues are joining together to ask Congress to help them survive. This week, they’ve sent letters to elected officials seeking assistance and they’re asking fans to do the same. 

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) represents concert venues in all 50 states including some legendary haunts the Washington, DC’s 9:30 Club and DC9, The Viper Room, Troubadour and Whiskey A-Go-Go in California and Preservation Hall in New Orleans. 

In an email sent to fans and mailing lists, NIVA asks for support in their time of need. 

“We know live music is something important to you. We think that you — like us — are hoping to get back to seeing your favorite artists and discovering new ones once we get through this epidemic…We are asking you to please contact your senators and representatives today and let them know you support locally owned and operated venues,” the group says. 

“It’s going to be a long, ongoing struggle and we worry about our staff, the touring crews and artists we work with who help create the great events we have. We are hoping to ensure that we can all get back to doing what we love.” 

The organization says many of the small venues that are so crucial to cities and bands alike are in danger of disappearing in the post-COVID world. 

“We are in a low-margin business just like the restaurants, but it is a high-liability business and capital-intensive business,” NIVA board president Dayna Frank told Rolling Stone. “We have massive spaces of retail — giant storefronts and high rents. We are located in popular neighborhoods and most of our members are in expensive districts. We still have to carry insurance, because we know that when the economy gets bad, people get more litigious. We are still rearranging shows and trying to return product, but most people are carrying full health insurance benefits for furloughed employees and we still have HVAC repairs, capital improvements, debt obligations. We have sales tax, property tax. And we have zero cash flow.” 

There are a handful of elected officials who have shown support, but NIVA believes they need fan backing in order to survive and to prove that they’re cultural institutions worthy of being saved with federal assistance 

Fans willing to do their part to show support can go here to send a letter. 

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

Amber Healy has 520 posts and counting. See all posts by Amber Healy

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