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NIVA ’24 conference draws highest attendance yet

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) attracted its highest audience to date for its third annual conference, drawing around 1,300 people to New Orleans.

Featuring panels, workshops, networking and live music, NIVA ’24 was hosted across multiple member venues over four days between 2-5 June. Highlights included the announcement video of Milwaukee as the host city for NIVA’ 25, which featured musicians such as Alice Cooper, Jim Gaffigan, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Rufus Wainwright.

NIVA executive director Stephen Parker also announced the election of two new board members: Sean Watterson, president and co­-owner of Cleveland’s The Happy Dog, and Katie Tuten, founder and co-owner of Chicago’s The Hideout.

“Sean and Katie have been critical to the live community that NIVA has built as state and local leaders, vocal advocates for independent stages, and passionate representatives for the needs of the nation’s smallest venues,” says NIVA executive director Stephen Parker. “Their leadership, along with the leadership of our re-elected and continuing Board members, will be critical as NIVA strengthens our state and local policy development and undertakes research that will show the world the tremendous impact independent live entertainment has on the nation.”

“NIVA strives to be a place to learn about the issues, solutions, and best practices that uniquely apply to independent stages”

Formed in the early days of the pandemic, US trade association NIVA has grown to represent more than 2,000 independent concert venues and related music businesses.

Re-elected to the NIVA Board were Andre Perry from University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium, Audrey Fix Schaefer from I.M.P. and the 9:30 Club, Brad Grossman from Helium Comedy Club, Grace Blake from City Winery, and Kira Karbocus from Newport Festivals Foundation. Hal Real from World Cafe Live, Jamie Loeb from Nederlander Concerts, Jim Brunberg from Revolution Hall and Mississippi Studios and Shahida Mausi from The Right Productions and The Aretha Amphitheater will also continue as board members.

Throughout the conference, more than 150 industry experts led discussions on the current state of safety, technology, maximising revenue, inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility, booking, ticketing, and marketing. Panels included discussions on proposed legislation to protect consumers, artists, and venues from predatory ticketing practices, and the importance of best venue practices.

“The independent live community made our conference in New Orleans four days we’ll never forget,” adds Parker. “NIVA strives to be a place to learn about the issues, solutions, and best practices that uniquely apply to independent stages and the people that ensure shows happen.

“Our industry showed up and meaningfully contributed to those conversations. What we saw and heard makes our hearts full. We hope it energises our entire sector for the important work ahead throughout the year.”

 


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Music Venue Trust’s decade of defiance

Across the globe, in almost every town and city, hidden gems pulsate with the raw, unbridled energy of live music.

Often tucked away off the beaten track, these intimate spaces carry a profound significance that transcends mere bricks and mortar. They are sanctuaries where local music scenes breathe and evolve, providing a stage for emerging artists to share their stories – cultural beacons where community, authenticity, and resilience truly take precedence.

In an era of endless mass production, these venues stand as a testament to the enduring power of music and fans’ unwavering passion, where that intimate connection between artist and audience is not only appreciated but revered. They are the very lifeblood of musical culture. But such grassroots music venues are facing existential threats.

2023 was the toughest year yet for them, something that becomes crystal clear perusing news stories on the topic. “Brutal,” “A dire crisis,” and “Devasting” scream the headlines – and with, on average, more than one venue closing every week, the topic is now routinely reported on by the mainstream media.

In the UK, the perfect storm of Brexit, Covid, the cost-of-living crisis, inflation, and the knock-on effects of wars and global instability has pushed many venues to the brink; government intransigence and ignorance often impede even the most basic common-sense efforts to help.

“These are places that make people go out and that get people inspired”

Yet the fight for their survival is not without hope. Last year marked the tenth anniversary of the Music Venue Trust, a ground-breaking charity that does vital work developing solutions, lobbying for change, and ensuring the music industry, politicians, and the wider public remain cognisant of the seriousness of this issue. Their achievements over the last decade have been notable, with their work inspiring dozens of similar organisations and impassioned individuals the world over; progress, albeit slowly, is being made.

Reflecting on this milestone, though, and taking stock of where the fault lines lie in this battle, it remains clear that there is much to be done – and quickly – if catastrophe is to be avoided. “These are places that make people go out and that get people inspired,” MVT CEO Mark Davyd said on a trip to Parliament this time last year. “[But] we’re not near the edge, we’re over the edge, and we’re tumbling down. You need to throw a lifeline down.”

Rising up, back on the street
The Music Venue Trust was created to promote a simple yet clear idea. “Ownership of the physical buildings was the key issue,” Davyd tells IQ, “and the trust was created with that name specifically as a reference to the concept of a National Trust for Music Venues – a model of benevolent ownership that would support the sector against all the other challenges it faced.”

The idea came to Davyd after the financial crisis of the late 2000s, and specifically, the closure of London’s Astoria in 2009. “That was the moment I realised no one seemed to care about the live music ecosystem,” he says. “There was a definite feeling for a number of years that things were so bad that obviously somebody would step in and do something. But finally, in 2013, we realised nobody was going to – we would have to do it ourselves.”

“We are focused on advocating for cultural politices that can safeguard these spaces for continuous improvement”

And while that remains one of MVT’s goals – “It took us nine years to finally deliver that ownership model,” says Davyd; they purchased The Snug in Atherton in 2023 – a far greater scope of activities, services, and other problems have presented themselves over the years. In the same vein, differing legislative and economic realities in other territories, coupled with much later start dates, means that similar organisations in other parts of the world have often focused on more immediate practical measures.

Face to face, out in the heat
“We have secured direct support for programming and infrastructure in the venues,” says Carmen Zapata Corbalán, manager of Associació de Salas de Conciertos de Catalunya (the association of concert halls in Catalonia – ASACC), “and our ongoing efforts are focused on advocating for cultural policies that can safeguard these spaces for continuous improvement, even amidst changes in political leadership.”

Formed when it was realised that the live music sector required a spokesperson to advocate for smaller venues, ASACC has advocated for such spaces to be considered “cultural assets” alongside requests for the regulation of music venues to fall under the jurisdiction of the Departure of Culture, instead of its current position under the Department of Security and Police. To do so, they document the closure or cessation of concerts in venues – including a campaign called “The Last Concert?”, whereby the facades of venues were painted as obituaries – and lobby for new entertainment laws that acknowledge and support venues as cultural activities.

To date, their most notable achievement is ensuring that individuals under 18 years of age could attend concerts accompanied by parents or legal guardians, but, adds Corbalán, growth in the number of ASACC’s associated venues in recent years, from 39 to over 90, “is a clear indication of its utility and impact. This growth demonstrates that it has been successful in achieving its goal and has made a positive impact on the community it serves.”

“If people really fundamentally understood how access to live music makes us healthier, government may be more willing to wrap their heads around the kind of policymaking that’s required”

The Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) is also currently celebrating its tenth anniversary. An organisation whose mission is to entrench live music’s economic, social, and cultural value in both the public and private sectors. “What we’re attempting to do is influence public policymaking,” says Erin Benjamin, president and CEO, “and the education of government, along with our storytelling, has been fundamental.”

The “story” is getting through, too. “Canada saw over $70m in designated money for live music in a historic budget during Covid – never had the words ‘live music venues’ appeared in a federal budget, ever,” she says. “That was monumental and something that we return to government to remind them of today.”

And the CLMA is keen to take a holistic view of such venues and the benefits they bring beyond money – much of their effort is directed towards their social and cultural impact, too. “If people really fundamentally understood how access to live music makes us healthier, mentally and physically, government and others may be more willing to wrap their heads around the kind of policymaking, economic or otherwise, that’s required to ensure the sustainability of these types of businesses,” says Benjamin.

In Austin, Texas, Rebecca Reynolds – president and founder of the Music Venue Alliance Austin (MVAA) – found “a patchwork of regulatory agencies and requirements that made it nearly impossible for venues to be in constant compliance.” Focused support was their answer; to start with, it was issues like sound complaints and parking, she says, whereas more recently, they’ve been “spending a lot of time on disaster relief, liquor taxes, and insurance.”

“These businesses are critical to culture and economy at the local level”

She notes that while property ownership for all venues would be ideal, “I am not sure that is everyone’s goal. We do need a regulatory environment that honours the fact that these are tax-paying businesses that do not benefit from philanthropic support but are critical to culture and economy at the local level and throughout the spectrum of the music industry.”

Directed conversations with lawmakers, building trust among the venue community, and working with those in position to implement the MVAA’s goals have paid dividends. “After lobbying our state legislature for three legislative sessions, we established a fund that will reimburse businesses up to $100k in alcohol taxes per year, to be put back into the production of live music in their spaces,” she says. “We also successfully lobbied the City of Austin to create a new fund, supported by hotel occupancy tax revenue, to provide grants for commercial music businesses.”

Reynold’s success in Texas directly influenced and inspired Chris Cobb, one of the founders of the Music Venue Alliance Nashville (MVAN). A volunteer-led organisation since its foundation in 2017, the MVAN has nonetheless proved influential thanks to what Cobb describes as “unbelievable grit and determination.” Again, legislative change around funding and tax are big goals – a venue grant fund and an alcohol tax refund are the current initiatives they are advocating for – and they scored some major successes in fundraising and preventing closures during Covid.

“Tax breaks,” says Cobb when asked about their main goals. “Taxes collected from independent venues make up an inconsequential percentage of total tax collected but are a significant cost to venues. Whether it be beer, liquor, or others, we must see a change in venue tax.”

“Now we are an organisation that promotes the interests of all cultural organisers, not just live music”

To this end, Cobb and MVAN are determined to “remind people – the right people – why venues are so important. But we have to be focused and more strategic, so we’ve just hired our first lobbyist, which is very exciting.” That cost is being split with the recently launched the Tennessee chapter of the National Independent Venue Association, and MVAN has also partnered with a local charitable organisation, their musicians’ union, the Musicians Association, and Belmont University on a music census to identify challenges and provide policy recommendations.

Norway’s Norske Kulturarrangører (NKA) has a little more history fighting for the arts – it started life back in 1982, working to promote the interest of volunteer-based rock clubs in Norway. “But now we are an organisation that promotes the interests of all cultural organisers, not just live music. So our approximately 500 members range from Live Nation, lots of rock and concert halls, and rock/blues clubs, whether public, volunteer, commercial, or global,” says Anders Tangan, the organisation’s senior advisor.

In Norway, gentrification is a major threat to grassroots venues, says Tangan, so much of NKA’s work revolves around protecting them from eviction. But the spectre of tax also looms large here. “In 2009, we managed to halt the proposal to put VAT on culture – we still have 0% VAT to this date, but the debate goes on,” says Tangan. “And in 2019, we managed to stop the taxation of volunteer work at venues and festivals.”

Overall, they’ve found that collaboration is key to achieving the required changes. “Historically, it’s been difficult coming together and speaking with one voice,” he says. “During Covid, this changed, and we could see that different organisations united, and real change was made. I think that will be important in the future – to unite and try to speak as one across the culture sector.”

“We are working to expand our reach and influence to ensure independent stages have a seat at the decision-making table”

Of course, new organisations and associations continue to pop up all over the world, united by the urgency of the fight and inspired by the precedent the Music Venue Trust has set. Australia’s Independent Live Venues Alliance (ILVA) is not even a year old yet but has already succeeded in getting grassroots venues “on the agenda,” as Jade Flavell, one of the founders, put it, and in “changing the language and thinking in media and political circles.”

Direct lobbying and coming to the table with practical and constructive ‘solutions’ that make it easy for those in power to say ‘yes,’ are one way that ILVA – the first organisation of its kind in Australia – plans to keep “chipping away” at the issue, says Flavell; ditto launching public awareness campaigns and calls to arms. And these are already bearing fruit; a few days after our initial interview, another Flavell, emails with news of a significant victory.

“The State Government of South Australia just announced a new programme to support small-medium dedicated live music venues with grants of up to $60,000 over 12 months towards costs associated with presenting original live music,” she writes. “ILVA worked closely on this programme with the minister for arts/small business Andrea Michaels – an engaged and sympathetic minister – and we were instrumental in securing this funding and ensuring it was targeted to dedicated original live music venues.”

Back in the US, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) is a little older than ILVA – three years to be exact – and, according to executive director Stephen Parker, was formed with “an initial singular goal in mind – to convince Congress and local governments to invest in the recovery of independent venues, promoters, and festivals.”

“We need the whole industry to accept that it has a responsibility to make sure that aspiration and opportunity exists for new and emerging artists in every town and city”

Inspired by how Davyd and MVT had “leveraged the collective voice of grassroots venues to influence government,” their top priority is the “financial and operational sustainability of our members” and a foundation of advocacy. Having already secured what Parker calls “the largest arts investment in US history,” their approach is two-fold. “We are working to expand our reach and influence to ensure independent stages have a seat at the decision-making table, and we are building coalitions of music and event industry organisations that are active at the federal, state, and local levels,” he adds.

Rising up to the challenge of our rival
And the next goal in their sights? “The biggest thing that would have an immediate impact is comprehensive ticketing reform that finally regulates a secondary resale market that is predatory for fans, artists, and venues,” says Parker. “Fraud is rampant in the secondary resale market, and our industry deserves the consumer protections that other industries have enjoyed for decades.”

Ah, yes. Ticketing. It’s a common issue mentioned by most of the organisations IQ speaks to and is something of a personal bugbear for Mark Davyd. Determined to make the wider music industry take greater responsibility – morally and financially – for the plight of grassroots music venues, he thinks ticketing is one of the most effective, easiest ways of achieving this.

“We need the whole industry to accept that it has a responsibility to make sure that aspiration and opportunity exists for new and emerging artists in every town and city in the UK,” he says. “A simple £1 levied on each ticket at arena level, funnelled back into the grassroots, would ensure that venues across the country can continue to support the artists and crew that emerge from the grassroots sector.”

“It’s doable and it’s worthy”

He notes that football already has a version of this in place, as does the French music industry. Furthermore, he adds that the French are going even further; from May, a 1.75% tax on streaming services in the country will be paid into a central fund and then distributed to support French artists, venues, and promoters. “We should be doing that here,” he remarks pointedly.

With eight new arenas being built across the UK in the coming years, Davyd told Parliament last year, “The distribution of wealth in this industry has got to change and be sustainable for grassroots, or we are all heading down over the cliff. Not a single one of those should open unless it has a policy where every ticket sold is investing back into grassroots music venues and grassroots artists – say no to them unless there is a pipeline.”

Tax, in the form of VAT, is also an issue in the UK, he says. The current VAT rate of 20% applied to tickets is “crushing the economic viability of this sector” and, he notes, is the highest of any major music nation in Europe – second only to Lithuania in the amount charged for putting on new and emerging talent. “That is ridiculous,” he says.

Even if Parliament is dragging its feet, Davyd’s calls have not completely fallen on deaf ears; part of MVT’s success has been co-opting other businesses and organisations into their campaigns and persuading them to change their own modus operandi. Gigtix, who launched a safe ticket reseller website in 2020, adopted the £1 donation model from the beginning; the money goes directly to MVT. “Would £1 really hurt all these companies selling tickets so much?” says Stephen Lee, the company’s director.

“The majority of fans would happily pay more if it meant venues had better facilities and survived”

“It hasn’t hurt us – it’s doable and worthy.”

He also believes the general ticketing ecosystem could do with an overhaul and that venues themselves can adopt a new – and somewhat controversial for some – approach. “We believe they themselves must dynamically price their tickets to generate enough profits to survive,” he says. “It’s vital, and venues shouldn’t frown upon it – the majority of fans would happily pay more if it meant venues had better facilities and survived.”

Even Ticketmaster have joined the fight; while not going as far as adopting the mandatory £1 approach, they at least give fans the option of donating when they purchase. “This year, we’ve hit a major milestone in our collaboration by introducing the optional Music Venue Trust donation across our marketplace, giving the millions of fans who come to Ticketmaster the opportunity to help UK grassroots venues,” says Andrew Parsons, managing director of Ticketmaster UK. “It’s our way of doubling down on supporting the crucial work MVT does.”

Since 2016, Ticketmaster has been the main sponsor of Venues Day – an event established by MVT COO Beverley Whitrick for grassroots music venues in the UK. In 2021, they launched a booking fee rebate where venues receive a 50% rebate on all booking fees, and just last year, they launched an annual MVT charity upsell option across their site, with Ticketmaster matching all donations received.

Of course, some venues and entertainment groups are taking it upon themselves to implement change. Many feel it’s the least they can do. “It isn’t rocket science, and it isn’t a huge amount of effort,” says Lisa Mart, venue director at Swansea Arena, which is part of the Ambassador Theatre Group. “And it’s mutually beneficial.”

“Collaboration is key for there to be lasting change”

From October last year, the arena implemented a year-round charity upsell of a minimum of £1 on all music events announced and held at the venue, as well as announcing an annual fundraiser event – the Swansea Arena House Party – which will feature a creative industries fair and workshops; the aim is to raise £20,000 from that event alone, with all ticket proceeds going directly to MVT.

Working together with other venues and organisations and being acutely aware of how vital audience awareness is, also lends a practical edge to the arena’s efforts. “Collaboration is key for there to be lasting change,” says Mart. With lack of late-night transport in South Wales a problem, they lobbied the government for more investment; they also lobbied about the lack of available and affordable outdoor poster sites for smaller venues.

And they’re keen on even simpler solutions, like sharing facilities, equipment, parking spaces, and general knowledge or expertise. “We are all in a WhatsApp group, so they [other local grassroots venues] know they can jump in and ask for or offer help where needed,” says Mart, all part of a plan to “make the most of the people being brought into the city.”

It’s been an extremely challenging decade for everyone involved in the arts, particularly grassroots music venues – not just in the UK but worldwide. Speak to people involved in the fight and they’ll tell you how frustrating the pace of change is and how reluctant those with power or influence can sometimes be to make it. “The closer we get to real long-term sustainable solutions to the challenges faced by the grassroots music ecosystem, the more defensive the music industry becomes about taking the action that is so obviously needed,” says Davyd.

“Music Venue Trust’s dogged determination and passion as advocates for grassroots venues serve as an inspiration for all of us”

But across the last decade, real strides have been made, and those campaigning for change remain filled with hope and determination – not least when they gaze upon the tireless dedication of MVT and what they’ve been able to achieve. “I’d give us a ten out of ten for determination to get things done,” says Davyd, “and I’d rate us a five or a six for getting it done quickly, but that’s the reality of trying to nudge a giant oil tanker like the music industry towards a more ethical and considered position.”

Just a man and his will to survive
Serving as an inspiration to others, what Davyd and MVT have done is best summed up by Michael Bracy, founder of the Music Policy Forum. “So much of what makes them so effective is their authenticity,” he says. “The Music Venue Trust’s dogged determination and passion as advocates for grassroots venues serve as an inspiration for all of us, and what may not be as visible is their remarkable generosity as collaborators and their eagerness to learn from others. They know they don’t have all the answers but are constantly in dialogue with other advocates and stakeholders from across the globe.”

“Mark Davyd is not just a pioneer, and he’s not just a visionary – he has changed the world with his work,” adds Erin Benjamin. “And if it weren’t for him and the Music Venue Trust, we would not be having these conversations.”

“That vision of what this network could be is achievable and could be delivered within a decade… if everyone just got behind it and did what they should be doing to make it a reality”

It’s a sentiment echoed by everyone IQ speaks to, but keenly aware of the battles – and difficulties – that lie ahead, all are focussed on creating a better, more sustainable future for grassroots venues and ensuring they don’t just survive but thrive. Music as we know it may depend upon it.

“The dream is a network of energy self-sufficient venues, benevolently owned by a not-for-profit entity, operated by a not-for-profit organisation, operating without Business Rates or VAT on tickets, housing accommodation that artists can use for free, with a fleet of electric vehicles that artists can travel in, and plugging into an excellent backline to perform on stages with the best available sound and lighting,” says Davyd of the MVT’s plans for the next decade. “That vision of what this network could be is achievable and could be delivered within a decade… if everyone just got behind it and did what they should be doing to make it a reality.”

 


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NIVA criticises Live Nation’s venues initiative

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) has spoken out against Live Nation’s new On the Road Again programme, which is intended to support developing artists and crew at club level.

Announced earlier this week, the scheme promises to allow artists keep 100% of merchandise profits at LN’s network of club venues in the US and Canada, as well as offering financial aid.

It will provide $1,500 (€1,425) in gas and travel cash per show to all headliners and support acts – on top of nightly performance compensation – while an additional $5 million (€4.75m) will be donated to global relief fund Crew Nation to support crew across the industry.

However, NIVA argues the move could cause more harm than good to the wider circuit in the longer term, adding that it “appears to be a calculated attempt” by the promoter to steer business away from independent venues.

“Temporary measures may appear to help artists in the short run but actually can squeeze out independent venues”

“Temporary measures may appear to help artists in the short run but actually can squeeze out independent venues which provide the lifeblood of many artists on thin margins,” says the US-based organisation. “Independent venues and promoters are investing in and elevating up-and-coming artists every day, and NIVA is supporting those efforts nationally. [On the Road Again] may seem like a move to follow the lead of some independent venues. It is not that.

“Instead, it appears to be a calculated attempt to use a publicly-traded conglomerate’s immeasurable resources to divert artists from independent venues and further consolidate control over the live entertainment sector. Such tactics threaten the vitality of small and medium-sized venues under 3,000 capacity, many of which still struggle to keep their doors open.”

More than 75 Live Nation venues are participating in the scheme, which has been endorsed by legendary musician Willie Nelson, including The Wiltern in Los Angeles, New York’s Irving Plaza, Austin’s Scoot Inn, Shelter in Detroit and Danforth Music Hall in Toronto, Canada, along with House of Blues venues across the United States.

“Artists are asking for support. On The Road Again is about supporting artists. NIVA members are perfectly capable of providing similar benefits”

However, critics say the initiative will only run for a limited period of time.

“Independent stages, where the majority of artists, musicians, and comedians start their careers, are small businesses and nonprofits,” adds the NIVA statement. “They are continually facing rising costs, increased deceptive ticketing practices in the resale market, and ongoing challenges following the global pandemic. Our stages are critical to the live entertainment ecosystem and local economies, and they must survive.

“The economics of touring must drastically improve for artists and independent venues. There has to be a better way. NIVA will continue to support artists and empower independent venues as we collectively find it.”

Posting on X, Live Nation’s EVP corporate & regulatory affairs Dan Wall responds: “Artists are asking for support. On The Road Again is about supporting artists. NIVA members are perfectly capable of providing similar benefits. Many already do.”

 


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Ticketing biz reacts to ‘all-in’ pricing pledge

Music companies and organisations have delivered their verdicts on Joe Biden’s announcement on ticket fee transparency.

The US president confirmed yesterday (15 June) that Live Nation and SeatGeek have pledged to adopt “all-in” ticket pricing, which will allow fans to see the full ticket price upfront, including fees.

Live Nation says it will begin providing all-in pricing experience this September for concerts at the venues and festivals it operates across the US.

“Live Nation is proud to provide fans with a better ticket buying experience,” says Tom See, president of LN’s Venue Nation. “We have thousands of crew working behind the scenes every day to help artists share their music live with fans, and we’ll continue advocating for innovations and reforms that protect that amazing connection.”

The company has advocated for all-in pricing to become law for many years, and joined with an industry-wide coalition earlier this year to promote FAIR Ticketing Reforms. Live Nation attended a forum at the White House yesterday hosted by Biden to discuss the move and other potential reforms.

“The president’s commitment to scrap junk fees is a huge step forward for a more enjoyable, more equitable live experience”

Biden, who called out “junk fees” in his State of the Union address earlier this year, was joined by representatives of firms who have made new commitments, as well as platforms that already provide all-in pricing as part of their business models, such as Dice and the Newport Festivals Foundation.

“The president’s commitment to scrap junk fees is a huge step forward for a more enjoyable, more equitable live experience,” says Dice CEO Phil Hutcheon. “Dice has always done upfront pricing and it leads to more fans going out more often, and ensures everyone can access the artists they love. It’s great for fans, artists and live venues.”

However, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), which represents more than 2,000 independent concert venues, stresses the need for further reform in the sector.

“Upfront pricing should be the start of comprehensive ticketing reform that protects consumers from price gouging and deceptive practices by predatory resellers,” says executive director Stephen Parker. “Other needed reforms such as banning speculative tickets and deceptive websites would further protect consumers in the ticketing marketplace. We applaud the president for [yesterday’s] meeting and look forward to working with his administration and Congress to make comprehensive, bipartisan ticketing reform a reality.”

“Until Congress acts to eliminate excessive fees and secondary ticketing is carefully regulated, millions of consumers will still be the victim of predatory ticketing practices”

The National Independent Talent Organization (NITO), the trade group for hundreds of independent booking agents and managers in the US, shares similar thoughts, deeming the move an “important first step” on ticket fee transparency.

“NITO calls on all ticket sellers to clearly show fans the total price of a ticket up front but also provide an itemised breakdown so fans understand the ticket price set by the artist and the fees added by ticket sellers. Until Congress acts to eliminate excessive fees and secondary ticketing is carefully regulated, millions of consumers will still be the victim of predatory ticketing practices.”

 


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NIVA Conference to return for second year

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) Conference will return from 10-12 July this year, organisers have confirmed.

The event, which will be held in Washington DC, debuted in Cleveland last July to coincide with the start of Independent Venue Week in the US, and sold out with more than 650 members, industry leaders and policymakers in attendance.

Topics to be discussed for 2023 include industry diversity, mental health, safety, insurance, economic impact of live entertainment, booking, artist development, ticketing, and the role of live entertainment in policymaking, alongside keynote panels.

NIVA ’23 will also give members the opportunity to engage with NIVA’s federal and national partners on Capitol Hill, in the administration, and throughout the Capitol region.

“We have an incredible community of music industry stakeholders here in Washington, DC,” says Chris Naoum, co-founder of Listen Local First DC, Down in the Reeds Festival and vice-chair of the NIVA’s Mid-Atlantic Chapter. “The music and comedy communities rallied together during the pandemic to build a coalition that continues to work together on a weekly basis to advocate for live entertainment and uplift each other through the incredibly difficult times.

“NIVA’s efforts led to the largest arts investment in US history”

“The coalition we have built is one of the reasons DC was chosen for NIVA ‘23 and I am ecstatic that so many members of our community are excited to host this one-of-a-kind event.”

The conference will also include live performances, a pre-party on 9 July and an awards gala 10 July at The Anthem, celebrating live entertainment’s contribution to the nation. Events will take place at multiple NIVA music and comedy venues across Washington DC, with NIVA ’23 once again coinciding with Independent Venue Week.

“Thousands of music and comedy venues across the country spent 2020 and 2021 focused on making the case to Washington DC policymakers that small businesses in live entertainment needed help to prevent the permanent loss of stages in every community, and NIVA’s efforts led to the largest arts investment in US history,” adds Stephen Parker, executive director of
NIVA.

“This summer, the nation’s music and comedy community will return to DC to illustrate why the partnership between government and the independent live entertainment industry must continue beyond the pandemic, to forge the future for independent music and comedy venues, festivals and promoters and to demonstrate their place in America’s culture and economy.”

 


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NIVA appoints executive director

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) has appointed Stephen Parker as executive director.

Parker’s career includes a near decade-long stint at the National Governors Association where he directed intergovernmental and congressional affairs. He also served as an advisor and consultant at the Country Music Association.

In his new role, Parker will be tasked with working with NIVA’s board and staff to grow the association’s membership, expand national partnerships that advance the live entertainment sector, promote diversity and equity across independent venues and ensure that music venues, festivals and promoters have a voice at the federal, state and local levels.

“Independent venues and festivals are a platform for artists, an inspiration for fans and an economic driver in every state and community,” says Parker. “It is an honour to be selected as NIVA’s executive director and to join an incredible team that has been working to preserve and promote the stages where music and comedy live.

“I look forward to working with the board of directors to ensure that live entertainment venues, festivals and promoters have the resources they need to survive and thrive, to advocate for equity across music and comedy ecosystems and to place NIVA at the forefront of policy discussions nationwide.”

Formed in the early days of the pandemic, NIVA has grown to represent more than 2,000 independent concert venues and related music businesses and played a crucial role in securing state and federal funding to help keep the lights on for its members during the shutdown.

“It’s hard to believe that NIVA didn’t even exist just three years ago”

“It’s hard to believe that NIVA didn’t even exist just three years ago,” said Dayna Frank, NIVA board president and CEO of First Avenue Productions. “We’re all very grateful for the founding executive director, Rev Moose. His efforts and guidance during those incredibly frightening and formative times helped us pass the largest arts funding programme in US history.

“Now, we look forward with immense optimism to NIVA’s next crucial chapter of growth and development to best serve members who fight tirelessly to improve their communities, workplaces and entertainment experiences. With Stephen’s leadership, energy, and enthusiasm we are in the best possible hands. His experience with advocacy and relationship development in a longtime successful association will ensure we flourish together today, tomorrow and in the future. We’re so lucky to have his determination and expertise.”

NIVA’s advocacy played a key role in the $16 billion Save Our Stages act, which passed in December 2020 and which was ultimately launched in May 2021 after some hiccups by the Small Business Administration. In 2021, meanwhile, it was honoured at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony for the role it has played in helping the country’s indie venues to survive the pandemic.

Last July, almost 600 music industry representatives attended the inaugural NIVA Conference in Cleveland, which coincided with the start of Independent Venue Week in the US.

 


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NIVA names first COO Cody Cowan

The US’s National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) has appointed Cody Cowan to the newly created position of chief operating officer.

As COO, Cowan will oversee the day-to-day operations of the grassroots music venues alliance, working closely with NIVA’s executive director, board members, department heads, staff, and committee chairs.

He will be tasked with identifying opportunities for growth while cultivating a workplace that is diverse, equitable and inclusive, according to a release. In addition, Cowan will work closely with the National Independent Venue Foundation.

“As NIVA continues its evolution from successfully ensuring the independent music, comedy, promoter and festival industry will survive, we’re now focused on how we thrive,” says Rev. Moose, executive director and co-founder of NIVA.

“We’re incredibly fortunate that Cody, a seasoned music industry veteran with a history of success working in the civic, hospitality, service, and live events industries, is joining NIVA in this newly created leadership position of COO. He’s a leader and vocal advocate for preserving the cultural identity of his hometown of Austin and we know he will bring this passion, commitment and energy to NIVA.”

“As NIVA continues its evolution, we’re now focused on how we thrive”

Cowan joins NIVA from Austin’s Red River Cultural District, where he held the position of executive director. He has been working in Austin’s music industry since 1997, including at two of the most iconic clubs in the city – Emos and Mohawk.

Cowan later co-founded the Red River Cultural District in 2016, as the nonprofit’s executive director with areas of focus including economic development, grassroots organising, live music policy, and innovation for the live music and cultural tourism economy.

“It’s truly an honour and a privilege to be invited to join NIVA’s hard-working, talented team and to also continue to be able to serve our independent music and comedy community’s mission in creating a thriving and sustainable ecosystem,” says Cowan.

“Music and comedy are not only the soundtrack for our day-to-day but also our inner lives – they comfort us in difficult times; energise us in diverse and incomparable ways; and help us to find deeper human connection and purpose in an ever complicated world. I’m grateful for this amazing opportunity to continue to serve our music and comedy community and look forward to what we may all build together at NIVA.”.

Formed at the onset of the Covid-19 shutdown, NIVA represents independent music and comedy venues, promoters and festivals across the country. NIVA created and led the #SaveOurStages campaign, resulting in landmark legislation establishing the US$16 billion Shuttered Venue Operators grant.

 


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Hundreds flock to first NIVA conference

The inaugural National Independent Venues Association (NIVA) Conference has been hailed as “exceptional” by executive director Rev Moose.

Almost 600 music industry representatives flocked to Cleveland for the gathering, held from 11-12 July to coincide with the start of Independent Venue Week in the US.

Topics discussed included safety, technology, inclusion, diversity, equality, accessibility, booking, ticketing and marketing, while ample networking opportunities were available to members.

“It was an exceptional event,” Moose tells IQ. “Not just the fact that we had as many people as we did, but the feedback was incredible and we are really happy. The independent sector hasn’t been catered for in the past to such a degree and this proves that the market is vibrant. We want to pay attention to the different aspects of the industry that are affecting everybody.”

“We’ve only been together for the past couple of years, but so many relationships have been formed”

Formed in the early days of the pandemic, NIVA has grown to represent more than 2,000 independent concert venues and related music businesses and played a crucial role in securing state and federal funding to help keep the lights on for its members during the shutdown.

“We’ve only been together for the past couple years, but so many relationships have been formed,” says Moose. “The commonality is very specific, but the differences are huge. And the fact that we’re all in such a great space and willing to collaborate and able to learn off of each other – and share time and happiness and stress points and everything else that comes with it – means that this was the perfect time for us to be able to bring something like this to the world.”

NIVA’s advocacy played a key role in the $16 billion Save Our Stages act, which passed in December 2020 and which was ultimately launched in May 2021 after some hiccups by the Small Business Administration.

Last year, it was honoured at last year’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony for the role it has played in helping the country’s indie venues to survive the pandemic.

“The stresses are very real… But we are happy to not be going through it alone”

“We’re excited to be in business,” says Moose. “At the same time, there’s still a lot of financial stress that is coming with it. There is the very real issue of shows being cancelled and rooms going empty for the night, or people not showing up and so you’re not selling what you need on the food and beverage side to be able to make it worth it.

“The stresses are very real and it’s just unfortunate that is still going to happen for quite some time, but we are very happy to be with each other and to not be going through it alone. That, in itself, is something very positive that’s come out through all this.”

Moose says the event attracted 568 registrants at last count – and indicates a sequel is inevitable.

“We want to do it again right now,” he laughs. “Of course it’s going to continue to happen. It intentionally overlapped with Independent Venue Week over here, which is currently in the middle of its fifth year. It gives us a chance to tell our story and people are paying attention, which is a great feeling.

“Independence is a strength in many ways but it also means that sometimes the squeakier wheel gets the attention – and we’re pretty squeaky when we’re all together!”

 


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NIVF relaunches emergency fund with expanded purpose

The National Independent Venue Foundation (NIVF) announced the relaunch of its Emergency Relief Fund (ERF) to provide economic relief to independent, music and comedy venues, festivals, and promoters across the US.

The fund was first launched in October 2020 by NIVF’s parent, the National Independent Venue Association, to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 shutdowns on independent venues, as they awaited financial relief from government programmes.

The updated ERF will now cover additional unforeseeable situations beyond the control of recipients, including natural disasters, future pandemics, and the lasting effects of Covid-19.

“These venues and promoters contribute in immeasurable ways to the vibrancy of the nation’s diverse communities and economy,” says Lisa Gedgaudas, co-chair of the NIVF ERF committee and program manager, Cultural Affairs Arts & Venues with the city and county of Denver.

“From pandemics to fire and floods, the new evolution of the ERF program stands in preparation for a stronger recovery”

“While NIVF’s ERF is limited in resources compared to the federal funding we have seen, it is our social responsibility to have this program in place to help represent our independent contributors that are hardest hit and facing severe and catastrophic emergencies beyond their control.

“From pandemics to fire and floods, the new evolution of the ERF program stands in preparation for a stronger recovery in the face of various climate emergencies that may continue to impact independent venues in our communities over time.”

Since its debut, the ERF has awarded US$3,170,000 to entities in 40 states; $2,800,000 to 148 independent venues and $370,000 to 18 independent promoters, using funds sources from thousands of individuals around the country as well as corporate and institutional partners.

Mast-Jägermeister US, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Spotify, Universal Music Group, the Gerald L. Lenndard Foundation, Sony Corporation, Fender Musical Instruments Corp and YouTube Music are among the partners.

More detailed information about the fund, including a link for those that wish to apply or donate, can be found at www.nivferf.org.

 


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NIVA to be honoured at Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony

The National Independent Venues Association (NIVA) in the US is to be honoured at this week’s 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony for the role it has played in helping the country’s indie venues to survive the pandemic.

Formed in the early days of the pandemic, NIVA has grown to represent more than 2,000 independent concert venues and related music businesses and played a crucial role in securing state and federal funding to help keep the lights on for its members during the shutdown.

NIVA’s advocacy played a key role in the $16 billion Save Our Stages act, which passed in December 2020 and which was ultimately launched in May 2021 after some hiccups by the Small Business Administration.

“Every band in the Rock Hall first took the stage in a local club, bar or theatre”

In a letter to NIVA members, R&RHOF president/CEO Greg Harris, wrote: “We are grateful for your hard work as NIVA leaders over the last year to keep live music alive. Independent venues are vital to rock & roll. Every band in the Rock Hall first took the stage in a local club, bar or theatre. Inside local independent venues we experience some of the greatest moments of our lives.

“The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is here to support our Inductees and our Museum, and to champion live music through programs like our summer concert series, our artist in residence program, our Induction Week, and much more. This week we want to celebrate all of you, our venue friends, for making it through a dark time. We are banking on a brighter future — so let’s raise a toast to rock & roll and live music together on October 30th.”

The 2021 ceremony Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place at Rocket Mortgage Field House in Cleveland, Ohio on 30 October and will be aired by HBO on 20 November.

The class of 2021 will include Foo Fighters, Carole King, Tina Turner, The Go-Gos, Jay-Z, and Todd Rundgren.


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