Music venues and promoters throughout the nation are “banding together” to lend support to the flailing music industry during COVID-19. It goes without question that live “in person” concerts are currently at a standstill. As the venues eagerly await the end of social distancing measures, they are mostly at a loss when it comes to taking any sort of direct actions. Instead, like so many other industries, it’s all about playing the waiting game, while hoping for the best.
As a way to be proactive, as COVID-19 plays out, a number of local music venues are rallying behind an initiative driven by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). To date, the following venues have supported the growing effort: Town Ballroom/Funtime Presents, Rec Room/After Dark Entertainment, Buffalo Iron Works, Mohawk Place, The Tralf, The Rapids Theater, Anthology, The Montage Music Hall, The Main Street Armory, and Abilene’s Bar & Lounge.
The unified collective of over 1000 venues plans on taking their message directly to Capitol Hill, where they will urge representatives to provide relief to the struggling industry, which typically contributes so much to local economies. Not to mention the cultural assets that the venues provide.
Leading industry magazine Pollstar estimated a $9 billion loss in ticket sales alone – not counting food and beverage revenue – if venues remain closed through the end of the year.
In recent years, Buffalo’s music industry has been experiencing a renaissance, thanks to so many different venues opening throughout the region. It’s been a great time to be a local musician. Then there are all of the incredible acts that have been passing through town. But that all came crashing down with the arrival of the virus. If any industry is at risk, it’s the music industry due to the inherent element of crowd gatherings.
For every dollar small venues generate in ticket sales, area restaurants, hotels, and retail establishments realize $12 in revenue.
Incredibly, 90% of NIVA members have stated that they will not be able to reopen without any sort of support, if the shutdown lasts another 6 months. The longer the shutdown lasts, the more at-risk the venues become. While other industries are seeing signs of hope, the music industry is still left in the dark. Even as other industries slowly prepare to conduct limited business, such as restaurants offering social distance seatings, there is really no way for music venues to successfully tailor to this type of scaled down mode of operation.
“The current Payment Protection Program (PPP) financial relief programs that are in place are designed for businesses that will be able to return to normal business operations in the weeks or months to come. Unfortunately, these relief funds fail to sustain an industry like ours. Venues can’t just open their doors and be back to normal business when this lockdown is over,” said Chris Ring, NIVA member and owner of local concert promotion company After Dark Entertainment & live music club Rec Room. “Venues will have months of little to no programming because artists need time to coordinate and book their tours. On top of that we will be opening with restricted capacities which will limit the revenue we can generate to pay the fixed costs that come with running our venues. The math just doesn’t add up to keep these venues afloat.”
Music fans can also help the #SaveOurStages campaign by reaching out to their elected leaders through email, phone calls, and even tagging them on social media posts asking them to support NIVA and their Independent local venues. NIVA is seeking modifications to small business loans and the Payroll Protection Program, tax relief, mortgage and rent forbearance, continued unemployment insurance for employees and guidance on how to reopen safely when the time comes. Membership is at no cost to independent venues, and is accessible here: www.nivassoc.org