NEPA Scene Staff

Independent music venues form new foundation led by Pennsylvania owner as federal relief stalls

Independent music venues form new foundation led by Pennsylvania owner as federal relief stalls
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From a press release:

As its nearly 3,000 members anxiously await the passage of the Save Our Stages Act in Congress, the National Independent Venue Association has announced the formation of the National Independent Venue Foundation, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit that seeks to partner and fundraise through individual, corporate, and foundation donations to expand upon NIVA’s mission to preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent live performance venues and promoters throughout the U.S. by also seeking to support a transparent, competitive marketplace serving a diverse and inclusive community of artists, fans, and industry workers.

Hal Real, founder and CEO of World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, has been named the president of this new foundation, and there are over 110 Pennsylvania members registered with NIVA, including local 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 the annual Briggs Farm Blues Festival in Nescopeck and Musikfest in Bethlehem.

“The National Independent Venue Foundation is built on the same guiding principles as the National Independent Venue Association. While NIVA remains the advocacy, sponsorship, and membership trade organization branch of the cause, the foundation has been created to focus on separate, supplemental initiatives, such as the Emergency Relief Fund,” Real said as he continues to serve as the secretary of NIVA.

“The foundation hopes to learn from existing best practices and training programs undertaken by NIVA’s members and expand upon them to provide education and community programming, employee training and support, and economic development initiatives to further develop both organizations’ efforts to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion. Long-term, we hope to establish an endowment fund to assure sustainability of NIVA and foundation programming for years to come.”

The National Independent Venue Foundation is led by these board members:

NIVF President: Hal Real, founder and president of World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, and secretary of NIVA
NIVF Executive Director: Rev. Moose, managing partner of Marauder, New York, and executive director of NIVA
NIVF Vice President: Tobi Parks, owner of xBk Live, Des Moines, Iowa
NIVF Secretary/Treasurer: Laura Wilson, live music manager for the Bohemian Foundation, Fort Collins, Colorado
NIVF Board Member: Torrie Allen, president and CEO, Arts Midwest, Minneapolis
NIVF Board Member: Annie Brinn, senior vice president of publishing administration at Warner Music Group, Nashville, TN
NIVF Board Member: Taneshia Nash Laird, president and CEO of Newark Symphony Hall, Newark, NJ
NIVF Board Member: David M. Mayeri, founder and CEO of Berkeley Music Group – The UC Theatre, Berkeley, CA

“While we wait for Congressional support that would allow our industry of independent venues and promoters to survive, I’m excited to be working with the National Independent Venue Foundation on next steps that, once we are back in business, will allow every member of our community the equal opportunity to thrive,” said Tobi Parks, NIVF vice president and owner of xBk Live.

“It’s more than just that feeling of being in an audience, surrounded by other fans of all backgrounds who are connecting in that moment. Our goal is to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in all levels of our industry – from fans to artists, employees to owners, and beyond.”

“The live music business contributes billions of dollars to the nation’s economy, and independently-owned venues are important not only for their economic value, but for the quality of life they contribute to their communities,” said Taneshia Nash Laird, NIVF board member and president and CEO of Newark Symphony Hall.

“I’m delighted to join the foundation’s board and contribute my expertise in economic development, equity, and inclusion towards the organization’s important mission of not only saving our stages, but helping these business owners maintain financial resilience.”

“As a proud Nashville native, born and raised in Music City, live music is ingrained in my DNA,” added NIVF board member Annie Brinn.

“Joining the board of the foundation sits directly at the intersection of where my personal and professional lives meet. My mission with the foundation is to drive change through the music industry and into our communities. I’m excited to help champion DEI initiatives and ensure that the relationships we foster and the partnerships we develop on behalf of the foundation are as diverse as the music that connects us.”

Save Our Stages Act still awaits passage

Formed at the onset of the COVID-19 shutdown, the National Independent Venue Association now represents more than 2,900 members in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. These independent venues and promoters were the first to close and will be the last to fully reopen. NIVA’s mission is to preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent live music venues, promoters, and festivals throughout the United States. The NIVA Emergency Relief Fund raises money for the most vulnerable venues to keep them afloat while they wait on Congress to pass the Save Our Stages Act.

The legislation, sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Roger Williams (R-TX), recorded its 200th bipartisan cosponsor in Congress at the end of October. During these contentious times on Capitol Hill, it’s notable that the Save Our Stages Act seems to be the one thing both parties agree upon – providing emergency relief to independent venues and promoters.

The Save Our Stages Act passed the House last month, with its language included in the new Heroes Act, and it is also included in a bill in the Senate awaiting a vote, but unpassed legislation provides no relief. These small business owners are doing everything they can to survive, from draining their retirement savings to taking second mortgages on their homes, but the eviction notices keep coming, and soon they’ll be forced to fold in even larger numbers. Seven months into the shutdown, they have had no meaningful federal assistance, so NIVA members are once again left hanging on the precipice of disaster.

90 percent of NIVA members reported they could be forced to close forever without federal relief; hundreds have already permanently shuttered, never to return again. Every day that Congress fails to pass the Heroes Act, it is putting this industry at risk of further collapse, which is also a detriment to all the businesses surrounding venues that rely on audience foot traffic in towns across America.

“We have been sounding the alarm since April that if our members don’t get emergency assistance, they will go under forever – and it’s happening,” NIVA Communications Director Audrey Fix Schaefer emphasized in an Oct. 6 statement.

“This is real. We need help. We urge Congress and the White House to continue negotiations and reach a deal quickly or there will be a mass collapse of this industry. The Save Our Stages Act has already passed the House and has strong bipartisan support. … We’re also hoping for the sake of our furloughed employees that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will be extended, as people are suffering through no fault of their own.”