Independent concert promoters and venue operators from across the U.S. are teaming to lobby Congress and the White House for federal aid to help club and theaters hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) will be helmed by Rev. Moose with branding and marketing firm Marauder and so far counts more than 450 national venues as members. Among them are the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C., , World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles, the Red River Cultural District in Austin and the Exit/In in Nashville.
“This is like a battle of survival and in order to survive, we need to put our best foot forward and have the most amount of unity and power that we can behind us,” explains Dayna Frank, owner of First Avenue in Minneapolis and NIVA board member.
Concert venues and clubs were among some of the first businesses to close as the coronavirus spread across America and they’ll be likely be among some of the last venues allowed to reopen once the pandemic ends. Already facing pressure from a rapidly consolidating music industry, rising rents and difficulty participating in the financial system, Frank says many venues and their employees are facing an existential crisis as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
“It is going to be a long struggle, but if we can all unite and speak with one voice, we’ll be able to help each other,” Frank adds.
Thanks to funding from See Tickets and Lyte, NIVA has hired well known Washington D.C. lobbying and international law firm Akin Gump to represent the venues and promoters who make up the group.
“Even though we were an independent group venue owners and operators, we wanted to hire the strongest possible lobbying group to be able to make our voices heard because we knew that everyone would be seeking to be heard at this point in time,” says Gary Witt, chief executive of Pabst Theater Group in Milwaukee.
Independent promoters have been under represented in the past — groups like the National Association of Concert Promoters have both independent and corporate promoter members and largely focus on negotiating publishing licenses with the royalty rights organizations. In March, the Independent Promoter Alliance was launched by Dave Poe of New York-based Patchwork Present and Ineffable Music and Jessica Gordon Broadberry Entertainment Group to focus on concert promotion.
NIVA is more political in nature and will work to lobby members of Congress and the White House to open federal assistance to small venues and educate lawmakers on the unique needs of concert promoters. Music venues are important economic drivers in their communities, explains Moose who was formally director of CMJ, the New York-based media company that organized the annual CMJ festival and published the CMJ New Music Report.
“Many venues started as a passion project run by sole operators and it helps to know that somebody across the country faces the same pain points and hopefully can offer some guidance,” Moose says. “Or maybe even just a little bit of moral support so you’re not feeling like you’re completely on your own. That’s one of the biggest stress points of being an independent business — you don’t always have somebody to turn to, like a board of directors. You sometimes just have yourself or an in law or something like that.”
Many of the aid packages and loan assistance available don’t work for concert promoters, who will face significant obstacles reopening their businesses, Frank explains.
“The primary goal of our lobbyists is to get language and to update to this act,” she tells Billboard. “Our employees and our community are our family. It’s a job, a lifestyle and defines who we are. We want to protect our employees and lift our community, but to do that we have to be able to reopen. And the way that the law is written now, it’s not going to be very helpful for that. So that’s, that’s why we’re going to D.C.”
Learn more at nivassoc.org.