NIVA Provides Update On ‘Quest To Save An Industry’
– Still Fighting
NIVA provided an update Tuesday about its work to help independent venues during the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), the organization formed at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to represent temporarily shuttered venues and promoters, shared an update Tuesday about the state of the industry.
NIVA, which now comprises nearly 2,000 members in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., released a thorough fact sheet and policy ask document detailing several ways the pandemic and related shutdown continue to impact the business, along with concrete suggestions about what steps the government could take to alleviate the industry’s economic precarity.
“The complete and instant shutdown of every venue is devastating,” NIVA president and First Avenue Productions CEO Dayna Frank wrote in a statement. “Revenues have ceased, but overhead hasn’t. We’re fighting for the future of our industry, our beloved venues and our communities. This is the one time we’re asking for assistance to do that. Without it, we fail. With it, we can once again be the gathering places that bring back our communities. With it, we will stand on our own feet and once again generate economic gains for businesses around us and the tax base of our towns and cities.”
The document first lays out the dire state of the live business today: Independent venues were the first establishments to close and will likely be the last to reopen due to the shutdown, which is currently indefinite and will likely extend into 2021 in many municipalities. Furthermore, “the ability to open at partial capacity is not economically feasible,” the document explains. “Rents, utilities, payroll, taxes, insurance and artist pay are not on a sliding scale matching the capacity we’re permitted to host. They are fixed costs.”
While many independent venues have been able to receive stopgap funding through the Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program, the document is unequivocal: “Current PPP funding will not solve the crisis,” which according to a survey of NIVA members, could permanently shutter 90% of these facilities within a few months without federal funding. The benefits are myriad, from the 75% of all artists’ income live events account for to the local economic impact, which totals an estimated $10 billion.
Courtesy NIVA – National Network
A NIVA graphic illuminating how the continued shutdown of some markets will impact other reopened markets.
“The entire nation must be open at full capacity for national music tours to route,” NIVA says. “No other industry has this challenge; restaurants, movie theaters, hotels, airlines, service providers and retail stores are not dependent on other jurisdictions’ readiness. With reopening regulations differing throughout the country and NIVA venues ranging from 250 to 18,000 capacity, even staggered openings are still effectively a national shutdown.”
NIVA provides several policy avenues to help independent venues persevere in the interim, including the bipartisan RESTART Act, led by Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), which would tailor the PPP to “work for shuttered businesses like ours that have zero revenue, high overhead and no clear timeline for reopening” by financing six months of payroll, benefits and fixed operating costs; allowing for various types of loan flexibility and forgiveness; and addressing the needs of small businesses with many part-time employees.
The document also outlines several tax credit proposals, for a percentage of refunded ticket costs; for rent, mortgage and utility expenses; for employee retention; and to accommodate the new workplace safety measures venues will need to adopt in the wake of the pandemic. Additionally, NIVA emphatically supports continuing unemployment insurance benefits for venue workers who have lost employment during the crisis.
“The demise of each independent venue also endangers Main Street USA’s comeback and a crucial component of music’s ecosystem,” NIVA says. “Independent venues are where superstars get their start.”
Fortunately, members of Congress seem to be taking notice. In Many, more than 40 senators signed a letter to leadership calling for relief for independent venues, while more than 90 House representatives sent a similar letter to their chamber’s leadership; both groups were bipartisan.
NIVA is encouraging people to continue the pressure by going to SaveOurStages.com to support relevant legislation.
For more about NIVA, revisit Pollstar‘s roundtable with Frank and fellow NIVA founders Rev. Moose and Gary Witt, as well as Pollstar‘s video interview with Frank. Find NIVA’s full update here.