What is NIVA and why (and how) is it trying to save the live music industry?

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 11:45 am April 24, 2020

The National Independent Venue Association is trying to save the future of live music as we know it.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Jason Kulbel who runs The Slowdown yesterday forwarded me a copy of the letter written by NIVA that was sent to Washington outlining how the live music industry and its participants will quickly go the way of the dinosaur unless Congress does something now to help support them during and after the COVID pandemic.

NIVA is the National Independent Venue Association, a just-formed organization that currently has more than 900 charter members in 50 states, including all the legendary clubs we know and love like 9:30 Club in D.C., First Avenue, Bowery Ballroom, Mohawk in Austin and of course our very own Slowdown, The Waiting Room/Reverb/Sydney and fabulous O’Leaver’s.

The first half of the letter, which you can read in its entirety right here, explains the role music venues, promoters and artists play in our economy, our culture, the very fabric of our country. Next it outlines the problem — how venues were the first to close and likely will be the last to reopen, and how everyone involved is being impacted, and how historic, iconic institutions could be forced into permanent closure.

Finally, the letter outlines solutions, including flexible and abundant federal loan programs, tax relief, unemployment insurance, mortgage and rent forbearance, debt deferral and recovery funds.

Those recovery funds and tax credits will help venues comply with new health guidelines when they’re allowed to reopen.

Another key provision: “Establishing national guidelines for resuming and continuing large gatherings in a safe manner to ensure uniformity throughout the industry.” This is critical because without it, there’s no way artists and promoters could schedule tours without knowing which states’ venues are able to book shows; without national guidelines each state would do its own thing and that would be a mish-mash, patchwork approach.

Unfortunately, Trump doesn’t appear to support those kinds of national guidelines, leaving it up to the states to decide. Oh what a mess he’s made.

I was skeptical when I saw this letter, figuring most members of Congress don’t know a thing about the entertainment industry. But Kulbel wisely pointed out that Congressional staffers know what’s going on; they frequent venues and understand what role they play in communities. He’s optimistic.

Kulbel continues to book shows at Slowdown despite the constant wave of cancellations so the club will have something in place when allowed to reopen, hopefully sometime this summer. Keep your fingers crossed.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for legislation that includes the above provisions. No doubt some smart congressman or senator will include them in a bill or create a bill that adopts these provisions, and when he/she/they do, it’ll be your job to reach out to your representatives and lobby for their support.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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