NYIVA is affiliated with the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), and its ranks include notable NYC spots like the Bitter End, the Bowery Ballroom, Nuyorican Poets Cafe and Baby’s Alright. The announcement of the group’s formation coincides with a planned day of action for Tuesday, August 4th, with NYIVA asking music fans to contact their congressional representatives and urge them to support the Save Our Stages Act and the Restart Act.
Independent venues across the United States are at risk of closing if Congress does not approve federal funding before its next recess, which could come as early as this week. An absence of funding would have a particularly devastating effect on New York City’s live music scene, where things are particularly precarious due to high cost-of-living and property prices.
Per an NYIVA press release, landlords for New York venues can currently claim, on average, $150,000 in back rent, while over 80% of venues have no definitive arrangements with their landlords, leaving them particularly vulnerable to eviction. If venues are to remain closed until 2021 — which seems likely considering the continued spread of COVID-19 and the lack of a vaccine — an average venue will need about $300,000 to sustain itself.
While the music industry has turned to livestreaming as a way to mitigate some of the effects of concert and tour cancellations, virtual concerts — while potentially lucrative for some — have yet to become a viable source of revenue for venues. According to NYIVA, the average New York venue’s monthly profit from livestreams, merchandise and other sources of income amounts to about $375 after labor and cost of goods.
As Congress continues to debate the next round of COVID-19 relief funding, it remains to be seen whether the Save Our Stages Act or the Restart Act — which isn’t specifically tailored to music venues, but broadly focuses on businesses with high overhead and no revenue during the pandemic — will pass as is, or if certain provisions from each will be adopted into the final legislation.
In a recent op-ed interview for Rolling Stone, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who introduced the Save Our Stages Act with Texas’ John Cornyn, said: “My message to music fans who want to help their favorite venues is to advocate; call their congresspeople, and say ‘We need you to support this bill.’ You have fans that go to venues all the time and miss it very much, and then you have people that understand that that’s how their favorite artists got started. You don’t want to take away the way that so many of our artists get started.”