A group of over 100 independent music venues in NYC have joined forces for a new effort to try to push Congress to help save these venues as the pandemic continues, and the lack of live events threatens to wipe out the entire industry.
The group is called New York Independent Venue Association (NYIVA), and is working in affiliation with the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), which formed toward the beginning of the pandemic. They are trying to get politicians to vote for in favor of the Save Our Stages and Restart bills, which were introduced last month in the Senate. Those bills would provide much-needed support and sustain venues during this period when most are completely shut down.
"These entertainment hubs are critical to their local economies and tax bases as employers, tourism destinations, and revenue generators for neighboring businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and retail," the group said in a statement. "Independent venues exist in every state across the country; they were the first to be closed, they will be the last to open. The economic recovery process will extend past just reopening the front doors, requiring solutions unique to the industry."
NYIVA writes that on average, it will take a New York venue $300K to sustain itself if it remains closed until 2021; live streaming has yet to become a viable source of revenue, with the average New York venue's monthly profits from such events and merchandise coming out to about $375 (after labor and cost of goods). They add, "On average, a New York venue already has $150,000 their landlord could claim in arrears and more than 80% of venues have no definitive arrangement with their landlords."
Among the venues that have signed up to be part of the effort are: The Bitter End, City Winery, NUBLU, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Good Room, Bowery Ballroom, Baby’s Alright, The Knitting Factory, Arlene's Grocery, Avant Gardner, Elsewhere, House Of Yes, Joe's Pub, Le Poisson Rouge, Littlefield, Market Hotel, Pianos, St. Vitus, The Bell House, Union Hall, Union Pool and more. You can see a full list of the venues here.
More than 600 artists, including Lady Gaga, Dave Grohl, Neil Young, Coldplay, Willie Nelson, and Robert Plant, have signed a letter urging Congress to pass the legislation.
David Byrne also wrote an editorial last week about the effort, discussing the importance of balancing the live music ecosystem to create support for new acts: "As time passed I’ve played a wide variety of venues, and I came to realize that there’s a kind of ecosystem at work – the little clubs nurture the acts that will eventually play the 800-capacity clubs and those in turn feed acts into the 1,500-capacity small theaters and ballrooms," he wrote. "Those venues support acts that will eventually play 2,500-seat theaters and carry their own crews and support. Each level feeds into the next. Musicians need each rung on this ladder to be in place in order to be able to reach the next one. When there are gaps in the chain, when there are rungs missing in the ladder, then musicians’ struggle to leap to a higher level – one that might be just beyond their reach."
"It should be obvious then that if this supply chain of talent and creativity collapses then nothing new will filter up and we’ll be left recycling the stuff already at the top over and over again," he added. "Pretty soon all the acts will be as old as me!"
You can learn more about the campaign here.