Q’s With Rev. Moose On NIVA Becoming A True Trade Organization & Looking Ahead To More Wins In 2022

Rev Moose
– Rev Moose

The positive impact the National Independent Venue Association has had on the live industry since launching during the early days of the pandemic – from bringing a sense of community and support to independent venues with the NIVA emergency relief fund to the passage of the $16 billion Shuttered Venues Operators Grant – can’t be overstated. But NIVA isn’t stopping there.

As Rev. Moose, managing partner/co-founder of boutique music marketing firm Marauder and executive director of NIVA, tells Pollstar, “This is an industry where you are only as good as your latest hit.” 

Reflecting on how NIVA has evolved from a volunteers-only organization to hiring professional staff and becoming a true trade organization, Rev. Moose explains that from the very early conversations, he and fellow founders knew they were building NIVA as a 501c6.

While helping get SVOG signed into law, NIVA had been working behind the scenes on forward-thinking plans including NIVA Care health insurance, which Rev. Moose says “we’re incredibly excited about,” along with a membership dues system and setting up a chapter system that’s being rolled out on the national level. 

Audrey Fix Schaefer, board member of NIVA and head of communications for promoter I.M.P., notes that the chapter system will help “venue operators, promoters and festivals – though competitors – create a community on things they’re on the same side of the table with, i.e. noise ordinances, tax issues, employment matters, etc.”   

The SVOG portal is now closed and is in the process of awarding all of the initial approved grants, as well as supplemental grants to entities that secured initial funding and still saw a 70% revenue loss this year over 2019. 

There is also an appeals process to allow those who believe they were incorrectly denied a grant to make their case again. Schaefer says, “It’s not complete, but we’re getting really close.”  
Pollstar recently caught up with Rev. Moose to learn more about NIVA’s plans, including putting together its first conference.

Pollstar: Are you still riding the high of the success of SVOG? 
Rev Moose: If Save Our Stages and the passage of the Shuttered Venue Operators was 2020, [in] 2021we’ve been working on significant programs, NIVA Care being one, and transitioning to a paid membership and full-time staff being another. 
We’re rolling out the National Independent Venue Foundation in a more focused manner than what we were doing last year with the NIVA emergency relief fund. And that in itself is a huge accomplishment. The emergency relief fund doled out over $3 million in grants in a very short period of time. And now we are reconfiguring that fund to be able to be more reactive on a case-by-case basis. So, when there are tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, floods, etc., the venues and promoters that are affected by it are able to apply for immediate funding while they are still taking an assessment of the different insurance coverage that they may or may not have. It didn’t previously exist. 
You know, the American way is if you’re up shit’s creek, you gotta GoFundMe out there somewhere. For our industry sector this is a way of being able to address that from an institutional level that wouldn’t have otherwise existed. And it’s only one of the programs that our foundation is working towards. But I do think it will be the type of thing that we look back on and wonder how any of us ever operated without it.
What can you share about NIVA’s membership dues system?
Really, it’s a matter of trying to make the most equitable environment you possibly can. And for us, we’re a trade association for people that truly are sole proprietors and, you know, are doing the booking and the box office managing and the ushering and sweeping and everything else all the way up to folks that own multiple properties in multiple states and employ thousands of people. 
We have to find a way to serve everybody across that spread. It’s from performing arts centers to comedy clubs from amphitheaters to rock ’n’ roll holes in the wall – all of these compose NIVA’s membership and they’re equally as important for us to fight for moving forward. We’ve done our best to convey the message that we’re not going to turn anyone away who genuinely wants to be a part of the organization if the membership rates are outside their means. We will find a way to include anyone.  
NIVA Advocacy Captains
Rustin McCann
– NIVA Advocacy Captains
pose for a photo in Cleveland that was shot hours before Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum CEO Greg Harris started the 2021 induction ceremony by recognizing all of NIVA for spearheading and securing the $16 billion Shuttered Venue Operators Grant.
And what about NIVA Care?
One of the committees that we have had quietly working behind the scenes has been NIVA’s insurance committee and it was originally led by Chris Bauman from Zenith [Music Group]. More recently, Mike Killeen from First Avenue is now co-chairing with him as well. And they’ve had a lot of help from Michael Hierl from Liquid Madison and Grace Blake [of City Winery] who’s been serving as the board liaison between the committee and NIVA’s board. 

Behind the scenes, these volunteers have been working diligently for well over a year and a half to try to essentially identify what our options are in regard to being able to help offer better insurance programs, not just on a health plan but on a commercial plan as well. 

The creation of NIVA Care exists to help those that maybe are not able to offer insurance plans at the moment or those that are offering free plans, but reassessing the costs that are associated with it. And what’s most important about it is that [it’s] not just for full time employees and part time employees, but this is also appropriate for 1099 [workers] too, so there’s the ability for an independent venue or promoter to be able to support their staff in ways that had previously not been possible. 

This is a program that has made it so the independents can compete on a national level in a way that they might not have otherwise been able to do. And I think that that is really where we see the bulk of our efforts going into ways that we can help our members not just compete but also serve the community and be able to help provide health care. It’s a necessity. It’s something that we should all be so fortunate to have. And I think that’s part of what we’re trying to do is just make this career path more of an option for people that might not have otherwise been able to do it in the past.  
NIVA also has a partnership with verification app Bindle, which allows users to securely store their COVID-19 test and vaccine records.
It’s one of the first member perks that we were able to roll out on a nationwide basis, and it was a necessity. People were – and still are – trying to figure out how to operate in an environment where vaccines are the difference between live events being able to return or returning much, much later. … It also worked out that we were able to get preferential pricing for the members. So it’s really just been an ideal partnership. 

How’s planning going for NIVA’s first conference? 
We’re putting it together – it’s going to happen in July of 2022. We’ve not yet announced the exact dates or the city in which it’s going to take place, but we’re really excited to have it coming together. We have a really unusual structure as an organization in that we do have the national office, but we also have 15 chapters around the country that all operate as its own local representation of what NIVA is doing overall

Politics on a national level, you’re dealing with Capitol Hill but when you’re talking about zoning and taxes and regulations and all those types of things, those are all local. So the extent of advocacy that you need on a national [scale] is only the partial story of the advocacy effort that we’re able to do for our members because so much of that is run and managed locally. So we have all these different individual chapters that this conference is going to be the meeting ground for everybody to be able to come together, in addition to their local or regular meetings. It gives us the opportunity to all come together and congregate and learn from one another. … And I think this community aspect is something that we’ve all benefited from – the artists, the agents, the ticketing companies, the fans. … Everybody is going to benefit from a healthier and more robust independent sector. Our role is making sure that people that choose to be independently owned or operated are able to do so with more support than what they would otherwise have.  

Anything else you wanted to add?
This has been a group effort from day one. Every single thing that’s been accomplished has been accomplished because a lot of really talented people chose to work together. And that’s the case from the volunteer side, it’s the case on the staff side. It’s certainly relevant with us working with our partners and those that are helping with fundraising programs and the foundation, the association, all the different elements. Every single aspect of what you’re seeing is because there are a lot of good people choosing to work together. Aside from the financial benefits of the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, I strongly feel like that is the true real accomplishment of what we’ve been able to see through together.