Local impact of venue closures gets a national platform via NIVA’s letter to Congress


On Wednesday, The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) sent a letter to the leadership of Congress, laying out a massive plan which detailed the organization’s hopes for Congressional assistance for live venues during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Noting that venues were some of the first places to shutdown, as well as likely being some of the last to reopen, there’s a very real fear as to the economic impact the shutdown will have on those who work in, around, and adjacent to the live music and performance industry.

Two of the names signed to the NIVA letter were those of Jacki Becker, a longtime promoter with Up to Eleven and Mammoth Productions, as well as Mike Logan, owner of Lawrence venues the Granada, Lucia, and the Bottleneck. I hopped on the phone with both of them yesterday to discuss what they see as being the major hurdles to venues right now, as well as going forward.

With the Payroll Protection Program, the limits and other restrictions on it don’t make sense for venues or in spaces of that type of hospitality industry, says Logan.

“I think I have to say this ten times a day: whenever we start to reopen, music things are going to be one of the last type of spaces to open,” the venue owner says right at the start. As he notes, in the Midwest, we benefit from touring traffic from East coast to West coast and from north to south.

“None of that touring traffic is going to be happening in the next however many months,” Logan states. “We had a lot of our shows moved, canceled, or postponed from, let’s say April 2020 to maybe October, November, December of 2020, and some of those dates are holding back into 2021.”

Becker concurs, saying that it’s rough for every independent venue across the country.

“It’s everything from something like the Replay all the way up to a giant beautiful theater somewhere in Wyoming that holds 4000 people, so the request of this is very wide. We found, from listening to everybody, that so many venues – just like some of the small businesses – did not get any of the money that they were hoping that they could get and so we realized with NIVA, that we needed to go to Congress directly, and to our representatives directly and go to Capitol Hill to really break out what it is we’re looking for.”

It’s just hard, Becker, continues, because no one really knows what to do just yet. She says that NIVA is just trying to think ahead and hope they can get funds to keep venues going. That’s not just funds initially, but funds throughout this processof dealing with Covid-19, because it’s going to take a very long time to get the A-OK to reopen.

I mention that it seems as though like there’s a double impact on this, because you have artists who perform in these venues, but also many of the employees of so many music venues are musicians or artists of other sorts, because of the hours that the job affords them, so it’s like artists are getting like hit twice with these closures. Logan agrees, explaining that the Granada, Bottleneck, and Liberty Hall recently put out a unified merch campaign to raise the money for their collective staffs.

“It was an opportunity for us to tell the story about how someone who takes your ticket at Liberty Hall might also do security at the Granada, who also might load a show at Sandstone or work the box office at the Uptown and how connected all of these independent venues that I just listed are,” Logan explains, on top of the fact that they do employ musicians, independent production managers, along with lighting and video technicians.

What Logan finds particularly interesting in the NIVA letter is a fact that he and I have discussed before, and it’s right there in the first main paragraph addressing the issues venues face, saying that “while [they] are small businesses, the estimated direct annual economic impact [they] bring to [their] local communities is nearly $10 billion.”

“When someone buys a concert ticket, they’re not just buying a concert ticket,” Logan lays out. “They’re going to dinner. They’re staying at a hotel. They’re buying a piece of merch from the band or buying a piece of venue merch there. Grabbing a slice of pizza afterwards. The trail of economic impact around music really needs to be part of the conversation.”

Becker concurs, saying that it’s even more than that, because the money that individuals spend to go to concerts is so much larger than just the ticket. That money is distributed to all the other small businesses that are in our downtown, to the gas station, to the hotel or AirBnB they stay at.

“The concert experience is something that’s very integrated into communities,” Becker says as we wrap up. “You take a venue and you close them, and you lose out on so many other additional resources.”

I Heart Local Music collated a great list of Lawrence venue assistance links, and you can find that here. Email me at nicholas.spacek@gmail.com if your venue has a similar fund or virtual tip jar, and we’ll list it below.

Room For A Riot: Benefit For The Staff Of The Riot Room KCMO

Categories: Music