With many of the country’s independent concert venues in limbo — having been without business since March because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — over 600 major recording artists, including Dave Grohl, Neil Young, Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga, Robert Plant, Willie Nelson, and Coldplay, have signed a letter to Congress imploring legislators to financially support these institutions.
The National Independent Venue Association, which formed in April and announced the letter with 600 artist signatories on Thursday afternoon, has warned that more than 1,000 independent concert venues face a permanent shutdown if they don’t receive more federal assistance. Iconic venues like the Troubadour and the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles and the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York are all members the organization.
Troubadour owner Christine Karayan previously told Rolling Stone she worried about her venue’s future without government assistance; a GoFundMe she started for a relief fund for the venue raised nearly $74,000. “We’re all in the same scary boat; this same scary bit of uncertainty,” she said. “We figured maybe we can at least get some legislation to help us. We just want to modify these existing programs; we just want to make the terms a bit more conducive to the way we work so we can get back on our feet and be able to move forward from this.”
Some of the implementations NIVA has previously asked of Congress include establishing a business recovery grant fund for concert venues and other shuttered businesses, granting various forms of tax relief, and continuing unemployment insurance for contract workers and artists who typically wouldn’t get such protections. NIVA has also called on government officials to create guidelines to help safely reinstate mass gatherings as part of the eventual reopening process. The organization says its concert venues contribute a total of $10 billion to their local economies each year.
“We will know America is ‘back’ when our music venues are filled with fans enjoying concerts safely,” the artists, which also include Jack Antonoff, Madison Beer, Alice Cooper, The Black Keys, Logic, and John Mayer, wrote in the Thursday letter. “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 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.” Read the letter below, and see the full list of signatories on NIVA’s website.
Artists’ Letter to Congress on Behalf of NIVA
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.