NEPA music venues join National Indie Venue Association to save industry and request funding
From a press release:
Formed at the onset of the COVID-19 shutdown, the National Independent Venue Association now has nearly 2,000 members in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., including venues like Stage West in Scranton and State College, the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, and ArtsQuest’s Musikfest Cafe and Levitt Pavilion at the SteelStacks in Bethlehem as well as festivals like the recently canceled Briggs Farm Blues Festival and Musikfest that will only be held online this year.
These independent venues and promoters were the first to close during the coronavirus pandemic and will be the last to fully reopen. They are at risk for survival if Congress does not take quick and specific action to address the unique circumstances of this still-shuttered component of the small business sector, which normally fuels economic growth for the communities they serve.
On June 9, NIVA released an updated NIVA Fact Sheet and Policy Ask Document that stipulates what will be required to save the industry from certain collapse. The demise of each independent venue also endangers Main Street USA’s comeback and a crucial component of music’s ecosystem. Independent venues are where superstars get their start.
Since the shutdown, NIVA members – entrepreneurs who have invested in their businesses and communities with their own lines of credit, loans, and personal guarantees – have had no revenue yet all of the fixed expenses keep coming, already driving some out of business. When surveyed, 90 percent of NIVA members said they will be forced to shutter forever if the shutdown lasts six months or longer and there’s no federal support.
The existing Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), even with the recent modifications, will not save independent venues, as it is the fixed costs, like rent/mortgage, utilities, taxes, and insurance that still need to be covered, even when venues are not permitted to be open. Only a small fraction of NIVA members have received other government loans related to COVID-19.
The entire nation must be open at full capacity for national music tours to route. No other industry has this challenge; restaurants, movie theaters, hotels, airlines, service providers, and retail stores are not dependent on other jurisdictions’ readiness. With reopening regulations differing throughout the country and NIVA venues ranging from 250-18,000 capacity, even staggered openings are still effectively a national shutdown.
Dayna Frank, NIVA president and CEO of First Avenue Productions in Minneapolis, said, “The complete and instant shutdown of every venue is devastating. Revenues have ceased, but overhead hasn’t. We’re fighting for the future of our industry, our beloved venues, and our communities. This is the one time we’re asking for assistance to do that. Without it, we fail. With it, we can once again be the gathering places that bring back our communities. With it, we will stand on our own feet and once again generate economic gains for businesses around us and the tax base of our towns and cities.”
NIVA is encouraging everyone to have their voice heard by going to saveourstages.com and filling out a quick form to support legislation that can save independent venues.
NIVA Facts and Policy Ask
- Independent venues were the first to close and will be the last to reopen.
- Venues have zero revenue, but obligations like mortgage/rent, bills, loans, taxes, and insurance continue.
- We have no work to offer our employees for the foreseeable future.
- The shutdown is indefinite and likely to extend into 2021 as our venues are in the last stage of reopening.
- The ability to open at partial capacity is not economically feasible. Rents, utilities, payroll, taxes, insurance, and artist pay are not on a sliding scale matching the capacity we’re permitted to host. They are fixed costs.
- Due to the national routing of most tours, our industry will not recover until the entire country is open at 100 percent capacity. NIVA members need assistance in order to survive until that day.
- According to a survey of NIVA members, 90 percent of independent venues report they will close permanently in a few months without federal funding. Current PPP funding will not solve the crisis.
- Pollstar estimates a $9 billion loss in ticket sales alone – not counting food and beverage revenue –
if venues remain closed through 2020.
- Live events provide 75 percent of all artists’ income.
- For every $1 spent on a ticket at small venues, a total of $12 in economic activity is generated
within communities on restaurants, hotels, taxis, and retail establishments.
- The estimated direct annual economic impact venues bring to local communities is nearly $10 billion.
- 600+ artists with social media impressions of 250 million are supporting NIVA’s request for
federal relief under the hashtag #SaveOurStages.
- Billy Joel, Lady Gaga, Gary Clark Jr., Alabama Shakes, Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, Trombone Shorty, Randy Travis, Kacey Musgraves, Zac Brown Band, Michael Franti, Neil Young, Alabama, Wyclef Jean, Joni Mitchell, André 3000, Alice Cooper, Cyndi Lauper, Lee Greenwood, Patti Smith, Don McClean, The Lumineers, and The Black Keys are among those advocating on behalf of NIVA members.
The people are speaking
- Through saveourstages.com, individuals sent more than 500,000 emails, reaching all 538 members of Congress. They asked legislators to provide federal assistance to independent venues and promoters.
- Led by legislators of both parties, nearly 150 members of Congress sent letters to Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy in the House supporting NIVA’s requests.
In order to ensure our survival, we are respectfully asking Congress to:
Provide long-term assistance for shuttered business
NIVA supports the RESTART Act (S. 3814) led by Senators Young and Bennet and other like-minded
proposals that tailor the PPP program to work for shuttered businesses like ours that have zero
revenue, high overhead, and no clear timeline for reopening. The RESTART Act:
- Finances the equivalent of six months’ worth of payroll, benefits, and fixed operating costs.
- Allows for flexible use of loan proceeds and loan forgiveness with no minimums on the percentage dedicated to any one expense.
- Expands eligibility to ensure access for small businesses that have many part-time employees.
- Allows up to 90 percent loan forgiveness for businesses with fewer than 500 FTEs and high revenue loss.
- Implements a generous seven-year payback schedule, wherein principal payments are not required for two years and interest payments aren’t due for the first 12 months.
Provide relief through tax credits
- Ticket Refund Tax Credit. NIVA supports a temporary tax credit available to small- and medium-sized promoters for a percentage of refunded ticket costs. Live music venues are unique from most industries in that, while generating zero revenue as a result of the pandemic, we are also refunding past ticket revenue from canceled shows.
- Rent/Mortgage Tax Credit. NIVA supports proposals like the Keeping the Lights on Act (H.R. 6799), which was included in the House-passed HEROES Act, that permit severely distressed small businesses to earn a tax credit for rent, mortgage, and utility expenses.
- Employee Retention Tax Credit. NIVA supports expanding eligibility for the ERTC in the CARES Act to include shuttered businesses that are recipients of PPP loans and continuing this benefit until the industry is able to resume normal operations at full legal capacity.
- Safe Workplace Incentives. NIVA supports proposals like the Clean Start Act (H.R. 7079) led by Reps. Murphy and LaHood, which provides a tax credit to businesses for added costs related to cleaning & disinfecting products, PPE, and other tools needed to ensure both workers and customers remain safe.
Continue unemployment insurance benefits
- NIVA supports continuing additional unemployment insurance for employees of shuttered businesses, including contract workers and artists who otherwise do not have access to relief.
Pennsylvania-based NIVA members:
228 Productions – Phoenixville
3577 Studios – Pittsburgh
American Music Theatre – Lancaster
Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall – Carnegie
Appell Center for the Performing Arts – York
Ardmore Music Hall – Ardmore
Ars Nova Workshop – Philadelphia
ArtsQuest (Musikfest, Musikfest Cafe, Levitt Pavilion) – Bethlehem
Briggs Farm Blues Festival – Nescopeck
Broken Goblet Brewing – Bensalem
Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead – Pittsburgh
Chameleon Club – Lancaster
City Winery – Philadelphia
Club Cafe – Pittsburgh
Con Alma – Pittsburgh
Crafthouse – Pittsburgh
Dave Kiss Presents – Philadelphia
Don’t Let the Scene Go Down on Me! Collective – Pittsburgh
Drusky Entertainment – Pittsburgh
Four Chord Music – Pittsburgh
F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts – Wilkes-Barre
gFx – Pittsburgh
Godfrey Daniels – Bethlehem
Green Soul – Philadelphia
HMAC – Harrisburg
Honcho – Pittsburgh
Hot Mass – Pittsburgh
Jamey’s House of Music – Lansdowne
Jergel’s – Pittsburgh
Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia
Kable House Presents – York
Levitt Pavilion – Bethlehem
Mr. Smalls Theatre – Pittsburgh
MilkBoy – Philadelphia
Miller’s Store Blackwell – Morris
Musikfest – Bethlehem
Musikfest Cafe – Bethlehem
One Centre Square – Easton
Opus One Productions – Pittsburgh
Ortlieb’s – Philadelphia
Pandemic Dance Party – Pittsburgh
Phantom Power – Millersville
Philadelphia Folksong Society – Philadelphia
Pittonkatonk – Pittsburgh
Point Entertainment – Philadelphia
R5 Productions – Philadelphia
Relish – Philadelphia
Reverb – Reading
Rex Theater – Pittsburgh
Rivals – Easton
Roxian Theatre – McKees Rocks
Sellersville Theater – Sellersville
Shady Lady Productions – Sarver
Sherman Theater – Stroudsburg
SOUTH Jazz Club – Philadelphia
Spirit – Pittsburgh
Sprout Music Collective – West Chester
Stage West – Scranton
Stage West – State College
State Theater – Center for the Arts – Easton
Susquehanna Folk Music Festival – New Cumberland
The Anderson Street Project – Philadelphia
The Barbary – Philadelphia
The Fire – Philadelphia
The Kennett Flash – Kennett Square
The Locks – Philadelphia
The Mr. Roboto Project – Pittsburgh
The State Theatre – State College
The Strand Theater – Zelienople
Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall – Pittsburgh
Union Transfer – Philadelphia
Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center – West Chester
Voltage Lounge – Philadelphia
Warehouse on Watts | WOW – Philadelphia
Warmdaddy’s – Philadelphia
Weather Permitting Concert Series – Pittsburgh
World Cafe Live – Philadelphia
Worship Recordings – Philadelphia
XL Live Harrisburg – Harrisburg
Watch Episode 132 of the NEPA Scene Podcast, a coronavirus shutdown panel discussion recorded at the onset of the pandemic in the area that includes F.M. Kirby Center Artistic Director Anne Rodella, Wilkes-Barre singer/songwriter Dustin Douglas, and Scranton Fringe Festival Executive Director Conor Kelly O’Brien, below: