Nashville Artists Support NIVA In Asking Congress To Support Independent Music Venues

As independent music venues across the United States have seen massive loss of business over the past few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 600 artists, including several artists with Nashville ties, have teamed to issue a letter to Congress, urging legislators to offer financial support for independent venues and promoters across the United States.

Artists with Nashville ties including Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Brothers Osborne, Kacey Musgraves, Randy Travis, Brandi Carlile, Alabama, Jason Isbell, Tanya Tucker, Lucinda Williams, The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, Willie Nelson, Kesha, Soccer Mommy, Boy Named Banjo, Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard, and The Cadillac Three joined artists including Cher, Joni Mitchell, Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, Billie Eilish, Bon Iver and more.

Among the industry executives who also signed the letter to Congress are Recording Academy president Harvey Mason Jr., Academy of Country Music CEO Damon Whiteside, Americana Music Association Executive Director Jed Hilly, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum president Greg Harris.

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) now has nearly 2,000 members in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. and includes Nashville’s 3rd & Lindsley, Cannery Ballroom, Drkmttr Collective, Exit/In, Mercy Lounge, Rudy’s Jazz Room, Springwater Supper Club & Lounge, Station Inn, The 5 Spot, The End, The East Room, and The High Watt. According to a recent poll of NIVA members, 90% of independent venues report that they could permanently close in coming months without federal funding. Even as some venues are allowed to reopen at partial capacity, those revenues are not enough to meet fixed costs such building rent, utilities, payroll, and taxes. According to NIVA, every dollar spent on a ticket to an event at a small venue generates total of $12 in economic activity in a community’s hotels, taxis, restaurants and more.

NIVA President Dayna Frank, who is also the president of First Avenue Productions in Minneapolis, said, “The potential collapse of the independent arm of our industry cannot be exaggerated. Indie venues are the safe places that allow artists to grow, explore, and intertwine the musical culture of their city and their artistic community with their own inner voice. We are steadfast launching pads, sounding boards, and cheerleaders for the greatest talent in the world…before the world has ever heard of them. We’re incredibly grateful for these emerging artists and legends who are putting a spotlight on the need to #SaveOurStages. We want nothing more to welcome them and their fans back when it’s safe to do so, which is why we’re working so hard to secure our survival.”

Read the full letter below:

We, the undersigned artists, respectfully submit this letter in support of NIVA’s request for federal assistance for independent music venues and promoters across the United States.

We will know America is “back” when our music venues are filled with fans enjoying concerts safely. The live music experience is inextricably tied to our nation’s cultural and economic fabric. In fact, 53% of Americans – that’s 172 million of us – attended a concert last year.

We urge you to remember we are the nation that gave the world jazz, country, rock & roll, bluegrass, hip hop, metal, blues, and R&B. Entertainment is America’s largest economic export, with songs written and produced by American artists sung in every place on the globe. All of these genres of music, and the artists behind them, were able to thrive because they had neighborhood independent venues to play in and hone their craft, build an audience, and grow into the entertainers that bring joy to millions.

Independent venues give artists their start, often as the first stage most of us have played on. These venues were the first to close and will be the last to reopen. With zero revenue and the overwhelming overhead of rent, mortgage, utilities, taxes and insurance, 90% of independent venues report that if the shutdown lasts six months and there’s no federal assistance, they will never reopen again.

We are asking you to support NIVA’s request for assistance so these beloved venues can reopen when it’s safe and welcome us and our fans back in. The collapse of this crucial element in the music industry’s ecosystem would be devastating.

Independent venues are asking for an investment to secure their future, not a handout. One Chicago report found that every dollar small venues generate in ticket sales results in $12 of economic activity. If these independent venues close forever, cities and towns across America will not only lose their cultural and entertainment hearts, but they will lose the engine that would otherwise be a driver of economic renewal for all the businesses that surround them.

With respect and solidarity, we, as artists and as community members ourselves, urge you to pass federal legislation that will help #SaveOurStages.

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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