We may be social distancing and sheltering in place to soften the sting of the coronavirus—which as of this writing has infected over 2.7 million people and killed over 190,000 worldwide—but we’re also banding together and organising in new and interesting ways. As economies and industries around the world continue to tank, people are beginning to understand the importance of social, political, and economic unity.
Take the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), for example. Created on April 17 by the leading independent music venues and promoters in the United States, the organisation’s express purpose is “to fight for the survival of independent venues, their employees, artists, fans and their communities,” all reeling from the blows inflicted by the pandemic. More than 100,000 independent music concerts have been canceled.
“Until now, independent venues and promoters have inherently been islands unto themselves, fighting fiercely in brutal, individual marketplaces,” NIVA writes on its webpage. “But the pandemic has brought a crashing halt to business operations of small and mid-sized venues across the country and threatens their existence.”
NIVA goes on to mention the significant cultural and economic role played by independent music venues, highlighting the fact that, per a 2016 study, the live music industry in the US generates approximately $23.5 billion in revenue each year.
Dayna Frank, the owner of First Avenue in Minneapolis and a NIVA board member, described the current situation facing venues as “brutal.”
“Music venues were the first to close and will be the last to open,” Frank said. “It’s just brutal right now, and the future is predictable to no one. We can’t envision a world without these music venues, so we’ve created NIVA to fight for their ability to survive this shutdown, which we hear could go into 2021. Our first order of business is to push to secure federal funding to preserve the ecosystem of live music venues and touring artists.”
To that end, NIVA has just addressed an open letter to the leaders of the US Congress. In it, the organisation thanks lawmakers for their relief efforts and lists steps it believes they ought to take in order to keep the industry from collapsing. These include: amendments to the small business loan program so that companies most in need are served first; tax deferrals and other forms of relief; further expansion of unemployment benefits (26 million Americans have lost their jobs due to coronavirus); mortgage and rent forbearance; establishment of business recovery funds; and more.
“In short,” the letter reads, “our members, employees, artists and local communities are facing an existential crisis as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and are in urgent need of targeted legislative and regulatory assistance.”
NIVA consists of over 800 independent music venues spanning 48 states.
This virus has been tough on us all. I don’t know what your sleep cycle is like these days, but mine is way out of whack. It probably won’t be right again until I can see some live music. Let’s hope independent music venues in other countries follow NIVA’s example and press their legislatures to provide the necessary assistance to keep this great industry afloat.