According to a letter to congress signed by more than 600 artists, including Alison Wonderland, Steve Aoki, and Big Wild, “90% of independent venues report that if the shutdown lasts six months and there’s no federal assistance, they will never reopen again.” The letter comes after months of fighting to keep independent music venues afloat.
Since independent music venues run on razor thin margins, they have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus closures. Dayna Frank, board president of the newly formed National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) spoke with The Rolling Stone about the crisis independent venues face.
“As venues, we pre-pay our insurance at the end of the year, and we take December, January, and February,” Frank explains, “to spend a lot of capital on organizational projects.” Coronavirus closures hit right after venues forked out cash for the upcoming season. Right before business would have been booming.
Steve Severin, co-owner of Neumos, chimes in
Steve Severin, co-owner of Neumos in Seattle, WA echoed the same sentiment back in March. “We just came out of the slowest time of the year. Mid-December, all tours stop.” Severin has been working with the Washington Nightlife Music Association (WNMA) to secure financial assistance for local venues.
In a recent interview with Billboard, Severin explains that the Paycheck Protection Program “is not cutting the mustard.” A coordinated effort between organizations like NIVA and WNMA recruited over 500,000 emails to congress. The hashtag #SaveOurStages helped the movement gain traction online, but congress failed to deliver the necessary investments.
Beloved Seattle venue, Re-Bar, has already closed its doors for an 18-month hiatus and eventual relocation. Many venues may not be able to reopen at all.
Severin expressed his frustration. “I don’t understand what we have to do to get the electeds to understand what the reality is. So that was the idea with the artist letter. If you won’t listen to those letters, how about Dave Grohl or Cher or Billy Joel?”
Regardless of financial strain, Severin remains focused on public safety during the global pandemic: “That is our No. 1 concern — not killing humans.”
Independent venues will bolster the economy – if they survive
NIVA sighted entertainment as the United States’ largest economic export. Independent venues provide a point of entry for up-and-coming musicians and performers. Consequently, they are an indispensable part of the entertainment ecosystem. Venues also drive sales at surrounding businesses.
The letter to congress reads:
“If these independent venues close forever, cities and towns across America will not only lose their cultural and entertainment hearts, but they will lose the engine that would otherwise be a driver of economic renewal for all the businesses that surround them.”
Several Pacific Northwest legends also signed the letter congress asking for funding for independent music venues, including Macklemore, Pearl Jam, and ODESZA.
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