Written by Lauren Rosier
Congress has finally come to an agreement on a new COVID-19 relief bill that will include funding for independent music venues that have been closed throughout the pandemic.
When the pandemic first began, seven young independent promoters came together and announced their plans to lobby Congress for federal funding to help save live music venues from permanent closure.
The group of seven men and women that eventually formed the National Independent Venue Association‘s (NIVA) founding board and staff – President Dayna Frank with First Avenue; executive director Rev. Moose, owner of the boutique agency, Marauder; an Austin, TX, promoter, Steve Sternschein with Head Presents; a Phoenix promoter named Stephen Chilton with the Rebel Lounge; Justin Kantor with the New York classical music space (Le) Poisson Rouge; Philly’s own, Hal Real from World Cafe Live, and NIVA‘s Head of Communications Audrey Fix Schaefer with I.M.P. in Washington, D.C. — all whom have not had much political experience previously, nor well known in the concert industry.
Soon, the team was able to earn victories like united 3,000 concert promoters under NIVA, as well as working with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) on a $10 billion bipartisan bill.
Klobuchar told Billboard in an interview Monday afternoon, “Usually you get negotiated down, but we increased funding and added more partners, including the theaters, the museums and the zoos.”
With the new federal plan, venue operators, promoters, music managers, and talent agencies are able to apply for non-repayable, two-part grants that can cover as much as 45% of a venue’s 2019 revenue. In the first round, it’s capped at $10 million, and then in spring 2021, there will be a supplemental grant that’s valued at 50% of the original grant.
To qualify, applicants must have been in the industry on February 29, 2020, and show 2020 revenues decreased by at least 25% on a quarterly basis compared to 2019. Venues can apply for funds in the next few days. Priority will be given those who faced 70-90% revenue losses this year.
The text does exclude both corporate promoters and coffee shops that hold open mic nights.
For a venue to qualify, they must have mixing equipment, a public address system and a lighting rig, as well as sell paid tickets or have a cover charge, “to attend most performances and (ensure) artists are paid fairly and do not play for free or solely for tips except for fundraisers or similar charitable events,” it reads.
Shows also must be staffed by paid employees, marketed/advertised to the general public, and at least 70% of the revenue must come from the tickets (food and drinks sold at a concert count towards the 70% requirement).
Only independently-owned venues are included, which automatically excludes any Live Nation or AEG-run venues. Applicants cannot have any business units in foreign countries, nor can they operate any cinemas or talent agencies in more than 10 states, or employ more than 500 people on a full-time basis.
“In the middle of this pandemic, when everything is so depressing and people are so alone, music and entertainment have really gotten people through difficult times,” Klobuchar said in an interview with Billboard. “People long for being back together and sharing a sense of community, and when coupled with the economic argument that these venues are critical to downtowns and cities, it became something everyone got behind.”