Artists, agents, promoters and venue owners are making a renewed push for bipartisan legislation to aid the independent live music community, which has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to be one of the last sectors of the economy to reopen.
Earlier this month, Congress recessed without passing any type of aid package for businesses and unemployed Americans devastated by the impact of the coronavirus. On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced his support and cosponsorship for the Save Our Stages Act, a bipartisan relief package for venues and indie music presenters. The announcement came during a press event that included Rev. Moose, executive director of the National Independent Venue Association and LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy who said that indie venues “are places that occupy parts of cities that nobody wants to be in when they start. They fill in the gaps and communities spring up around them. They take those warehouses that nobody wanted to be in and they build places that foster the most diverse music scene in the world.”
Letting hundreds of venues go out of business would be a huge cultural loss for the country, Murphy says, noting “we’re not going to be able to rebuild these from zero. You can’t knock out all the mom and pops and think that more mom and pops will spring up. If we knock them out, it’s just chains.”
Schumer said independent venues, “like theaters and concert halls, are the beating heart of New York’s cultural life and a driving force in the economy,” adding, “that’s why it’s so important to provide dedicated federal assistance to independent venues so when it is safe, we can gather again for music, comedy, theater and other live performances in venues that have been around for generations. I’m proud to co-sponsor the Save Our Stages Act, and I’ll fight to include federal funding for independent venues in any coronavirus relief legislation.”
The Save Our Stages Act was introduced by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) would provide grants to independent live music venues, festivals, promoters and agencies that have lost nearly 100% of their revenue since the pandemic. A companion bill in the House is led by U.S. Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Roger Williams (R-TX).
“Local independent scenes are the cultural lifeblood of our communities as well as an economic driver throughout America,” said Moose. A Chicago study last year showed that for every $1 spent on a ticket at a local venue, $12 of economic activity was generated for area businesses such as restaurants, retailers, and hotels.
“These mom and pop venues are unable to fully reopen until well into 2021 due to safety concerns posed by large gatherings,” he said. “These institutions draw most of their revenue from acts that tour the United States, and until it’s safe to gather people en masse, it won’t be possible for venues to bring back their staff.”
Save our Stages would provide Small Business Administration grants equal to at least six months of financial support to pay employees and cover expenses like rent and utilities.
“New York City’s culture is tied inextricably to the city’s sustainability and independent venues are the city’s cultural hubs,” says Le Poisson Rouge’s Justin Kantor, NIVA vp and co-founder of the New York Independent Venue Association (NYIVA).
“From tourism to real estate, our collective economic impact is in the billions,” Kantor said.”The current situation is devastating and if nothing is done, venues that have been around for decades will go out of business. It’s impossible for any performance space to keep this up for months on end without generating revenue. Live streaming is not the answer and will not even make a dent in a venue’s monthly expenses. Our collective survival is hanging in the balance.”
To learn more about NIVA and the Save Our Stages Act, visit saveourstages.com.