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How Independent Music Venues Became a Powerful Lobbying Force

A group of venue owners formed in response to the pandemic successfully got a $15 billion support bill passed to help small venues stay afloat during the pandemic.
February 25, 2021, 12pm PST | Diana Ionescu | @aworkoffiction
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Writing for Bloomberg CityLab, Rebecca Greenwald reports on the Save Our Stages Act, an initiative started by music venue owners that could help prop up independent venues during pandemic closures. Signed into law on December 27, the $15-billion piece of legislation is an unprecedented show of support for arts and culture—"for context, the National Endowment for Arts has awarded a total of around $5.5 billion since its founding in 1965."

Originally proposed by a newly formed nationwide coalition of music venues, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), the Save Our Stages Act recognizes the challenges faced by live entertainment venues, whose expenses to keep shuttered venues alive are putting many of them out of business. Unlike other businesses, federal programs like the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program don't necessarily help music venues. "The program’s mandate to put the majority of funds towards payroll rather than rent, mortgage, utilities and other overhead costs was completely untenable for businesses that weren’t open or operational," writes Greenwald, citing the average rent for independent venues as ranging between $10,000 and $60,000 per month.

Championed by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and co-sponsored by Texas Senator John Cornyn, the Save Our Stages Act focuses on "small business and economic recovery" and marks a "momentous occasion" for the NIVA. The group plans to continue its activism after the pandemic and use their newfound political voice to be "a player in Washington."

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Published on Friday, February 12, 2021 in Bloomberg CityLab
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