The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the music industry, and one of the largest ongoing uncertainties is about the survival of independent venues worldwide. The National Independent Venue Association -— a coalition formed by 1200+ independent venues across the country -— is trying to secure "financial support to preserve the national ecosystem of independent venues and promoters."

According to a poll, over 90% of independent venues will have no choice but to close their doors if the shutdown continues, or if they don't receive financial assistance. Patrons of beloved independent spots such as The Satellite in LA (which is becoming a restaurant), Great Scott in Boston and The Jinx in Savannah have already had to say goodbye, and other spaces may soon follow.

NIVA has been advocating for Congress to pass legislation to assist independent venues, and now two bills have been introduced —- one in the House and one in the Senate -— regarding this initiative.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) are co-sponsoring the Save Our Stages Act in the Senate, introduced last week. Their bipartisan bill, sponsored by NIVA and the National Independent Talent Organization (NITO), would provide $10 million in funding for six months of short-term economic relief to independent music venues around the country. Aid would be provided to "keep venues afloat, pay employees, and preserve a critical economic sector for communities across America."

Here are more details about what the bill would do:

- Establish a $10 billion grant program for live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives
- Narrowly define independent live venue operators, promoters, and talent representatives to prevent large, international corporations from receiving federal grant funding
- Direct the Small Business Administrator to make grants to eligible recipients equal to the lesser of either 45% of gross revenue from 2019 or $12 million
- Allow the Small Business Administrator to issue supplemental grants in the future if funding remains available and applicants can demonstrate continued need
- Permit recipients to use grants for costs incurred during the COVID pandemic
- Permit recipients to use grants for rent, utilities, mortgage obligations, PPE procurement, payments to contractors, regular maintenance, administrative costs, taxes, operating leases, and capital expenditures related to meeting state, local, or federal social distancing guidelines

Sen. Klobuchar also wrote an op-ed for Rolling Stone about the bill, and her personal stake in the matter. Here's an excerpt:

[With music venues], it’s not like some of the businesses can be half-open. It’s either open or closed for the most part. You could envision a day where maybe they can do social distancing, but it’s really hard in mosh pits to do that. (I know that from my daughter. I can’t say I’ve been in a lot of mosh pits myself.) It makes it unique because of the fact that, while the PPP grants were welcome, those venues are in a unique situation where that wasn’t as much help as it was for other businesses. They’ve always operated on a thin margin. There is an estimated $9 billion in losses expected should ticket sales not resume until 2021. And so we really tried to focus this on the independent, smaller venues. It’s an extension of PPP — kind of like the airlines was — to get at a particularly hard-hit industry that the PPP isn’t going to work for.

You can read her whole op-ed here and learn more about the Save Our Stages Act on their website.

Additionally, Representatives Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin) and Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania) have introduced their own bill in the House of Representatives to address this issue. The Entertainment New Credit Opportunity for Relief & Economic Sustainability (ENCORES) Act, also backed by NIVA, proposes providing tax credit to music venues, worth 50% of each refunded ticket for cancellations prompted by the COVID-19 shutdown. Only businesses that offered voucher alternatives to refunds; that promote, produce, and manage live concerts; and that have under 500 full-time employees would be eligible.

Regarding the bill, Rep Kind said, "As the first to close and last to open, independent art centers across the country are at risk of closing. In this time of such uncertainty and darkness, we cannot allow the light of the arts to go out. I am proud of the work we’ve done to put together a bipartisan proposal to help independent venues continue to thrive when this crisis ends."

You can read a document detailing the ENCORES Act here.

Recently, two NYC Councilmembers, Justin Branan and Keith Powers, also announced their formation of the "CBGB Caucus" in the NYC Council to help support independent music venues as they remain closed during the pandemic.

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