NIVA, YouTube Music Unite Iconic Artists and Venues For Three-Day Save Our Stages Festival

Courtesy YouTube Music
– Three Days of Peace, Music and Rescuing Venues
NIVA and YouTube Music announced Save Our Stages Fest on Thursday, which will bring marquee artists to iconic venues across America Oct. 16-18.

A month after announcing a partnership, the teams at YouTube Music and the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) have revealed their first joint venture.

Save Our Stages Festival (#SOSFEST), a three-day virtual festival taking its name from the Save Our Stages industry relief package NIVA has championed, will present new performances by a vast spectrum of 35 performers – Foo Fighters to Kelsea Ballerini to YG – from more than 25 iconic independent stages across the country Oct. 16-18.

“On our side, we have a team of people that are very passionate about live music, and all of us are really close to going to these independent venues,” YouTube head of artist partnerships and live music Ali Rivera tells Pollstar. “When we saw the impact COVID was having on independent venues, we wanted to help. We knew our platform could make a difference. We have such a global reach, and we have tools available to fundraise.”

Planning conversations began in June, and assembling the bill has been a daily endeavor for the teams led by Rivera and NIVA treasurer Stephen Sternschein, who is executive producing #SOSFEST.

But the fruits of their labor are evident. Performances will feature dream pairings, like The Roots from New York’s Apollo Theater, Reba McEntire from Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and Miley Cyrus from Los Angeles’ Whiskey a Go Go.

Hosted by Reggie Watts, the extensive slate also includes Dave Matthews Band (Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, Va.), Marshmello and Demi Lovato (L.A.’s Troubadour), Brittany Howard (the Ryman), Dillon Francis (L.A.’s Teragram Ballroom), Phoebe Bridgers (the Troubadour), the Lumineers (Boulder Theater in Boulder, Colo.), Macklemore (Seattle’s Neumos) and many more.

“We were able to spread the performances out across the country to show a real cross section of the variety of types of [NIVA] members,” Sternschein, who is managing partner at Heard Presents in Austin, Texas, and owns the city’s Empire Control Room & Garage, tells Pollstar. “Independent venues are so different. There are so many different kinds of rooms. A lot of people, I think, have kind of equated NIVA with the quote-unquote small club scene. The smallest rooms, the most intimate settings, that’s the top of the funnel for artist discovery and development, but our membership is much broader than that, and the ethos that comes from that approach permeates everywhere from a tiny place like Cain’s [Ballroom in Tulsa, Okla.] to a giant place like the Apollo Theater or the Ryman. It was important to us from a narrative perspective to tell a story that was as inclusive and diverse as our membership.”

Coordinating so many artists across a bevy of venues and time zones took some elbow grease, but the #SOSFEST team had the advantage of willing participants, between artists’ connections to venues in the NIVA network and many of their histories presenting content with YouTube.

“I was on each and every artist call, and the reception was just so inspiring and really like nothing I’ve ever felt before,” Rivera says.

“Nobody’s ever tried to do something like this, during a pandemic, no less,” Sternschein says. “We had to figure everything out as we went along. […] There’s just been this incredible outpouring of support from everywhere for what we’re doing. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. It really speaks to the unity that exists right now in the independent music scene around this issue.”

To help ease the lift for participating indie venues, YouTube Music and NIVA turned to livestreaming production company Big Room, which outfitted spaces with technology reducing the number of crew needed onsite. Additional livestreaming support is coming from Bulldog Digital Media.

#SOSFEST is presented by Bud Light Seltzer, which will donate $1 million to NIVA as part of the event.

It’ll also be easy for viewers to get involved. A primary stream on NIVA’s YouTube page will have YouTube Giving integration for donations to the NIVA Emergency Relief Fund, as will the performance videos that will simultaneously stream on the individual pages of participating artists.

“It’s really meant to be long-lasting,” Rivera says. “The VOD will be up and continue to fundraise and drive awareness for the cause even after the three-day festival.”

In this perilous time for independent venues, #SOSFEST provides something for all parties – artists, organizers and fans – to look forward to.

“These are all never-before-seen, original content pieces, as opposed to archival footage or iPhone camera” sets, Sternschein says. “We’re adding a lot of beautiful new music to the world at the same time that we’re saving that world.”

#SOSFEST Performances At Independent Venues:
Adam Melchor – Hotel Cafe (Los Angeles, CA)
Alec Benjamin – Hotel Cafe (Los Angeles, CA)
Bea Miller – Teragram Ballroom (Los Angeles, CA)
Black Pumas – The Parish (Austin, TX)
Brittany Howard – Ryman Auditorium (Nashville, TN),
Brothers Osborne – Mercy Lounge (Nashville, TN)
Cautious Clay – World Cafe Live (Philadelphia, PA)
Dave Matthews – Jefferson Theater (Charlottesville, VA)
Dillon Francis – Teragram Ballroom (Los Angeles, CA)
Dizzy Fae – First Avenue (Minneapolis, MN)
FINNEAS – Teragram Ballroom (Los Angeles, CA)
Foo Fighters – Troubadour (Los Angeles, CA)
G-Eazy – The Independent (San Francisco, CA)
Gus Dapperton – Le Poisson Rouge (New York, NY)
Jason Mraz – Belly Up (San Diego, CA)
JP Saxe – Troubadour (Los Angeles, CA)
Kelsea Ballerini – Exit/In (Nashville, TN)
Leon Bridges – Troubadour (Los Angeles, CA)
Little Big Town – Exit/In (Nashville, TN)
The Lumineers –  Boulder Theater (Boulder, CO)  
Marshmello & Demi Lovato – Troubadour (Los Angeles, CA)
Macklemore – Neumos (Seattle, WA)
Major Lazer – Gramps (Miami, FL)
Miley Cyrus – Whisky a Go Go (Los Angeles, CA)
Monica – Center Stage (Atlanta, GA)
Nathaniel Rateliff – Boulder Theater (Boulder, CO)
Phoebe Bridgers – Troubadour (Los Angeles, CA)
Portugal. The Man – Crystal Ballroom (Portland, OR)
Reba McEntire – Ryman Auditorium (Nashville, TN)
The Revivalists – Tipitina’s (New Orleans, LA)
Rise Against – Metro (Chicago, Il)
The Roots – Apollo Theater (New York, NY)
Sebastián Yatra – Amaturo Theater (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
YG – Troubadour (Los Angeles, CA)

Additionally Featured Independent Venues:
Cain’s Ballroom (Tulsa, OK)
Preservation Hall (New Orleans, LA)
9:30 Club (Washington, DC)

For the full roster of participating venues and artists, head over to NIVA’s website.