Small music venues in the United States are where musical artists hone their craft, fed by the energy of sweaty, cheering fans. In pre-pandemic times, a night out to see live music was a communal experience. There was comradery, fun, dancing, and ideally, a memorable experience watching talented musicians play great songs with abandon.
In pandemic times, that’s all changed. Communal experiences are to be avoided. So is being in crowded indoor spaces, especially if there is singing and yelling going on which medical professionals say releases lots of respiratory droplets that spread coronavirus.
Much like COVID-19 affects people in varying ways — a death sentence for some — no symptoms for others — closures mandated to slow the spread of coronavirus are forging a similar path for businesses, some not much affected financially while other industries are at the brink of collapse.
According to the National Independent Venue Association, entertainment venues are in a unique spot in that they generally have high-overhead, no current revenue, and there is “no clear time for reopening.”
That jugular blow to small music venues is why Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar co-authored the Save Our Stages Act with Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn in the hopes of getting federal aid to go to small music venues to help support them for six months.
Klobuchar told Rolling Stone, “I don’t want to lose music in America. It’s one of our most incredible assets, one of the most incredible parts of our culture in America, and one of our most successful exports to the world. It’s not only goodwill to the world, but it also brings in significant revenue to our country and jobs. And you can’t have creative music and allow new artists and people like Prince — before he was a superstar in our state — without venues where they can perform.”
The President of the National Independent Venue Association Says the Industry Will Collapse Without Federal Assistance. Luckily There Are Three Proposed Bills That Could Help
Dayna Frank, president of the National Independent Vendors Association and CEO First Avenue Productions said in a press release, “Without federal assistance like ENCORES Act, Save Our Stages Act and RESTART Act, 90% of our members say they will be forced to close forever by the fall. It would not only be the collapse of our industry, it would be devastating to our communities that rely on us as a magnet for commerce.”
That’s because when people go out for live entertainment, they almost always spend money at other nearby businesses.
According to NIVA, “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.”
The authors of The ENCORES Act say they also realize the importance of saving live entertainment venues. Democratic Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind and Republican Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly drafted the ENCORES bill to help sustain entertainment venues that are seeing major losses due to the pandemic. The bill would offer financial help to venues that host “live concerts, comedy shows, sporting events, and live theatrical productions.”
Rep. Kind said in a press release, “As the first to close and last to open, independent art centers– like the Pablo Center here in Western Wisconsin – across the country are at risk of closing. In this time of such uncertainty and darkness, we cannot allow the light of the arts to go out. I am proud of the work we’ve done to put together a bipartisan proposal to help gems like the Pablo Center continue to thrive when this crisis ends.”
The third bill proposed to help struggling businesses is also bipartisan, but it’s not specific to entertainment or music venues. It includes what it calls the “hardest-hit restaurants, gyms, hotels, retailers, and other businesses,” and “would give business owners who took out Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans the flexibility they need to utilize the PPP effectively.
“The RESTART Act would also create a loan program to provide funding to jump-start the hardest-hit businesses for the remainder of 2020 and provide loan forgiveness as a backstop against ongoing economic challenges,” according to Colorado’s Democratic Senator Michael Bennet who co-authored the bill with Indiana’s Republican Sen. Todd Young.
Entertainers From Alice Cooper to Katy Perry to Sarah Silverman Are Supportive of The Save Our Stages Bill, Citing the Importance of Independent Venues to Launching Their Careers
In a video put together by NIVA, musicians and comedians both old-school and new took part in the plea for Americans to reach out to Congress and ask them to pass the Save Our Stages Act. The musicians and comedians in the video emphasize the importance of independent venues and stages because that’s where so many get their start.
Small venues like CBGB is where bands like Ramones, Blondie, and Talking Heads started out in the 1970s. L.A.’s Whiskey A-Go-Go gave us The Doors and Janis Joplin in the 1960s, and Mötley Crüe and Guns N’ Roses in the 1980s. The stories of those now-legendary bands and musicians playing those small clubs in their early years have become part of America’s rock ‘n’ roll history.
According to NIVA:
On June 18, more than 600 of the nation’s most cherished musical artists, including Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters, Mavis Staples, Lady Gaga, André 3000, Coldplay, Willie Nelson, Billie Ellish, Gary Clark Jr, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Miranda Lambert, Billy Joel, Earth Wind & Fire, Kacey Musgraves, Leon Bridges, Wyclef Jean, and Bon Iver, along with beloved comedians such as Jay Leno, Tiffany Haddish, Jeff Foxworthy, Jerry Seinfeld, and Tig Notaro, issued a letter to Congress asking legislators to provide urgent financial support for independent venues and promoters in the U.S.
Twenty leaders in the music industry also signed a letter to Congress on July 14 to support Save Our Stages, including Spotify, Recording Industry Association of America, and Sony Music Entertainment. The letter said, in part:
Under normal circumstances, these mom and pop entrepreneurial businesses fuel about $9 billion a year into local economies throughout the U.S. Due to the national routing of most tours, this industry will not recover until the entire country is open at 100% capacity. NIVA members need assistance in order to survive until that day. This is critical for our nation’s artists, too, as they derive 75% of their income from touring.
To tell Congress you support Save Our Stages, click here.