More than 600 musicians and comedians issued a letter to Congress Thursday (June 18) asking for federal assistance to keep music venues across the nation from closing due to the impact of the coronavirus.
“Independent venues give artists their start, often as the first stage most of us have played on. These venues were the first to close and will be the last to reopen,” reads the letter signed by Dave Grohl, Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga, Mavis Staples, Willie Nelson, Coldplay and more. “With zero revenue and the overwhelming overhead of rent, mortgage, utilities, taxes and insurance, 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 continues, “We are asking you to support [National Independent Venue Association’s] request for assistance so these beloved venues can reopen when it’s safe and welcome us and our fans back in. The collapse of this crucial element in the music industry’s ecosystem would be devastating.”
The letter is also signed by André 3000, Gary Clark Jr, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Miranda Lambert, Billy Joel, Earth Wind & Fire, Kacey Musgraves, Leon Bridges, Wyclef Jean and Bon Iver, as well as popular comedians Jay Leno, Tiffany Haddish, Jeff Foxworthy, Jerry Seinfeld and Tig Notaro, among others.
The Recording Academy interim president/CEO Harvey Mason Jr., Academy of Country Music CEO Damon Whiteside and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum president Greg Harris also added their names.
“Independent venues are asking for an investment to secure their future, not a handout. One Chicago report found that every dollar small venues generate in ticket sales results in $12 of economic activity,” the letter 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.”
The 600 artists sending the letter to Congress join more than 500 other touring acts and comedians who have urged their fans to have their voices heard at SaveOurStages.com to make a combined social media presence exceeding 900 million followers. So far people across America have written more than 500,000 emails asking Congress to #SaveOurStages.
The SaveOurStages campaign was started by the National Independent Venues Association, which formed to support indie venues at the onset of the COVID-19 shutdown. In just two months, NIVA has accumulated 2,000 venue and promoter members in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
“The potential collapse of the independent arm of our industry cannot be exaggerated. Indie venues are the safe places that allow artists to grow, explore, and intertwine the musical culture of their city and their artistic community with their own inner voice,” said NIVA president Dayna Frank, who is also the president of First Avenue Productions in Minneapolis, in a statement. “We are steadfast launching pads, sounding boards, and cheerleaders for the greatest talent in the world…before the world has ever heard of them. We’re incredibly grateful for these emerging artists and legends who are putting a spotlight on the need to #SaveOurStages. We want nothing more to welcome them and their fans back when it’s safe to do so, which is why we’re working so hard to secure our survival.”
NIVA’s plea for federal funding asserts that most independent venues will be shuttered through 2021 while the spaces continue to have to pay rents, utilities, taxes, insurance and more. While some states and jurisdictions will allow concerts to resume prior to 2021, many will be at reduced capacities which is a financially unfeasible solution for these small businesses. NIVA additionally states, “Due to the national routing of most tours, this industry will not recover until the entire country is open at 100% capacity. “
Read the full letter and list of signees here.