Independent music venues are in dire straights. Live music was one of the first areas of the economy to take a hit when the coronavirus landed in the U.S. and it’ll be one of the last to come back. Even as parts of the economy reopen, the coronavirus is known to spread quickly in crowded, indoor spaces, meaning most venues will need to remain shuttered until there is a vaccine widely available, and independent venues without corporate backing are simply not able to weather the storm. A recent survey of 2,000 independent music venues conducted by a newly-formed organization called the National Independent Venue Association, or NIVA, came to the conclusion that “90% of independent venues report they will close permanently in a few months without federal funding.” Furthermore, “Current [Paycheck Protection Program] funding will not solve the crisis.”
NIVA has been lobbying politicians in Washington to provide assistance, and now it seems as if all that hard work may have had some effect: a group of U.S. Senators led by John Cornyn of Texas and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have introduced a new relief bill for independent music and entertainment venues struggling during the pandemic.
The Save Our Stages Act, as it’s been titled, proposes $10 billion to help venues through the next six months to be distributed via grants of up to $12 million per venue, or 45% of the venues’ operating costs in 2019, whichever is less. The funding could be used to cover costs incurred during the pandemic, as well as pay for rent, utilities, mortgages, personal protective equipment, maintenance, administrative costs, taxes, and expenses that would allow venues to meet local and federal social distancing guidelines. “Supplemental grants” are included as a possibility in the future if additional funding remains necessary. The bill pledges to “narrowly define independent live venue operators, promoters, and talent representatives to prevent large, international corporations from receiving federal grant funding.”
Klobuchar, who ran in the Democratic presidential primaries earlier this year, issued a statement about the Save Our Stages Act, saying:
“Minnesota’s concert halls, theatres and places of entertainment, like First Avenue in Minneapolis, where Prince famously performed, have inspired generations with the best of local music, art and education. This legislation would help ensure that small entertainment venues can continue to operate and serve our communities for generations to come.”
“Texas is home to a number of historic and world-class small entertainment venues, many of which remain shuttered after being the first businesses to close. The culture around Texas dance halls and live music has shaped generations, and this legislation would give them the resources to reopen their doors and continue educating and inspiring Texans beyond the coronavirus pandemic.”
The National Independent Venue Association’s Adam Hartke praised the Save Our Stages Act in a statement of their own:
“While existing government assistance programs have helped other industries, they weren’t tailored to meet the needs of small businesses like ours that have zero revenue, enormous overhead and no visibility into when we can fully re-open. The Save Our Stages Act will provide the assistance we need to get through the shutdown until we can reopen safely and once again become the economic generators for our communities that we’ve always been.”
It should be noted that a proposed bill does not an official policy make. The Save Our Stages Act would still need to be passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives before being signed by the president before it becomes law. Still, it’s a start.