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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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Venues Day International to debut in October

Music Venue Trust (MVT), which represents 100s of grassroots music venues in the UK, has announced that its annual conference and networking event, which was postponed last year due to the pandemic, will now take place in October.

To enable as many venues as possible to participate, Venues Day 2021 – which takes place at Earth in London on Tuesday 5 October – will be a hybrid event incorporating Venues Day Online, a day of virtual activity on 12 October, to ensure every venue in the country gets access to best practice information, advice and guidance as they emerge from lockdown.

Another new event, the inaugural Venues Day International, will take place on 19 October. A partnership between MVT and Live DMA (Europe), Music Policy Forum (North America), Canadian Live Music Association, Live Music Office Australia and NIVA (US), Venues Day International is the first global event aimed exclusively at grassroots music venue operators and owners.

Venues Day International will also take place online and feature panels, presentations and discussion on shared challenges and opportunities across the world.

“We are incredibly excited … to have taken the challenge of the crisis head on and be delivering a hugely increased range and scope of events”

Venues Day is sponsored by Ticketmaster and Amazon, with additional support coming from Jack Daniel’s, White Light, ILMC and media partners IQ and NME.

Andrew Parsons, MD of Ticketmaster UK, says: “Venues Day has long been a pillar for the grassroots community, but this year’s will be a lifeline to so many venues around the country as we inch closer to reopening. The sheer graft of MVT throughout the pandemic to support the industry has been truly inspiring to see, and we’re happy to do our part and sponsor Venues Day 2021.”

“Music Venue Trust offers invaluable support to our industry, and initiatives such as the Grassroots Music Venues Crisis Service have provided a lifeline for many over the past year,” adds Patrick Clifton, UK head of music for Amazon Music. “At Amazon Music we’re proud to continue our partnership with MVT, to help bring Venues Day to grassroots sites across the country, providing guidance and advice to ensure they can safely open their doors to music fans.”

Beverley Whitrick, strategic director of Music Venue Trust, comments: “Venues Day 2021 will further encourage collaboration and sharing, connecting venues across the world so they feel part of a growing movement to emphasise how vital they are to both the wider music industry and local communities. We are incredibly excited to not only be able to deliver the existing event, but to have taken the challenge of the crisis head on and to be delivering a hugely increased range and scope of events with our domestic and international partners.”

 


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NFT drop raises $200k for US indie venues and NIVA

Ten historic independent venues in the US, as well as the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), will directly benefit from more than $200,000 raised through a ‘golden ticket’ NFT fundraiser, according to Variety.

Last week’s fundraiser saw fans and collectors place bids to win one of ten NFTs depicting the participating venues, each of which came with a ‘golden ticket’ that will grant the auction winner VIP access and exclusive perks to future concerts and events at the respective venue.

All ten venues’ unique ‘golden ticket’ pieces were sold and notable winners included artists such as Shawn Mendes & Andrew Gertler (the Troubadour, Los Angeles), Tove Lo (First Avenue, Minneapolis), Dillon Francis (Neumos, Seattle), Pabllo Vittar (9:30 Club, Washington DC) and Tycho (The Independent).

Other participating venues included Bowery Ballroom (New York), Exit/In (Nashville), Mohawk (Austin), The Metro (Chicago) and Tipitina’s (Louisiana).

“For the second drop, many of the artists who have supported the cause so far will donate their likenesses”

The crypto-art was designed by Young & Sick, a touring musician and trailblazer in the NFT-space whose debut collection recently grossed over $1,000,000 on Nifty Gateway in March 2021.

Looking to capitalise on the success of the campaign, Young & Sick along with partners Goldflyer and NIVA, are organising another drop this Friday (16 April) on Nifty Gateway at 1:30 pm ET.

For the second drop, many of the artists who have supported the cause so far – Tove Lo, Dillon Francis, Pabllo Vittar and Tycho – will donate their likenesses for an NFT portrait series called ‘Nifty For NIVA’.

All proceeds will go to NIVA’s efforts to help struggling independent music venues stay afloat during the pandemic.

NIVA, along with Music Venue Trust and Back-up, will also benefit from an NFT fundraiser launched by Rolling Stones’ frontman Mick Jagger and Extraweg.

The audio-visual NFT features a loop of Easy Sleazy, Jagger’s new lockdown inspired track featuring Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, and visuals by legendary 3D artist Extraweg AKA Oliver Latte.

The exclusive NFT went on auction at 6 pm today (15 April) and will be available for 24 hours.


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US concert biz offers skills and staff for vaccinations

The major American promoters, venue operators and industry associations have formally offered their venues, staff and expertise towards the United States’ national Covid-19 vaccination effort.

In a letter to new US president Joe Biden (pictured), Live Nation, AEG Presents, Oak View Group, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and others pledge their resources towards the vaccination programme – saying the live industry, whose venues are empty and staff furloughed, is in a “unique position to help”.

Staff are “eager to help out and get back to work”, adds the letter, which is also addressed to Norris Cochran, the acting secretary of health and human services; Dr Rochelle Walensky, the acting director of the Centers for Disease Contro; Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease’s services division; and Bechara Choucair, the White House’s vaccinations coordinator.

“It’s human nature to come together in good times and bad, and our industry is committed to doing everything in our power to bring people together again, not just for events, but for every aspect of community that we have been missing,” says Michael Rapino, president and CEO of Live Nation. “Live Nation has venues across the country that are capable of managing critical onsite elements of the vaccine rollout and we are eager to pitch in and be part of the solution.”

Dayna Frank, CEO of First Avenue Productions and president of NIVA, adds: “Since the pandemic shuttered our industry almost a year ago, our buildings and our co-workers have been paused, unutilised and struggling. These vaccines are our best chance at putting Covid-19 behind us, and our experiences organising events and managing crowds now put us in the unique position of being the best-prepared and most qualified industry to support the vaccination effort and get this country on the road to recovery.”

“We are the best-prepared and most qualified industry to support the vaccination effort and get this country on the road to recovery”

Other organisations offering their help are the International Association of Venue Managers; lighting company Bandit Lites; #WeMakeEvents North America; the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees; theatre industry association Broadway League; the National Independent Talent Organization (NITO); and musical instrument trade body NAMM.

Live venues are already playing a key role in the immunisation process internationally, with concert halls, arena and stadia, and convention and conference centres offering their services as mass-vaccination sites.

Venues are, according to a statement from the group, perfectly suited to doubling as vaccination centres, given that they are designed for queueing and crowd control, located near parking or public transport and have wide, clear interiors, as well as regulated/ticketed entrances and exits.

“The entire live event industry has stood still since March, 2020. We all stand united now, ready to assist in the safe, rapid delivery of the vaccine from a people-moving perspective,” says Bandit Lites chair Michael T. Strickland.

Agent Wayne Forte, president of Entourage Talent Associates and member of NITO’s executive committee, comments: “We are here to help. In fact, many venues are already working on the state and local level to implement vaccine programmes. Our industry owns, leases and/or has access to thousands of venues throughout America, most that are under mandated closures and sitting empty. Event venues make ideal community vaccination sites.”

 


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US Congress passes $15bn Save Our Stages aid

The US Congress has passed the Save Our Stages bill, which will provide around US$15 billion in relief to independent music venues, as part of a wider $900bn Covid-19 stimulus package.

The passage of the bill yesterday (Sunday 20 December) followed a two-hour hearing earlier in the week, during which representatives of the grassroots venues sector made a “passionate and compelling case for federal aid before the US Senate”, according to Variety.

Passage of Save Our Stages by Congress is the final stage before it goes to president Donald Trump, whose signature will enshrine the bill in law. Trump supports the bill, according to White House spokesman Ben Williamson.

“I am especially pleased that this bill will provide money for bars and restaurants, and $15 billion in SBA [Small Business Administration] grants for theatre operators and small venue owners through the Save Our Stages act,” says New York senator Chuck Schumer, a co-sponsor of the bill.

“We’re thrilled that Congress has heard the call of shuttered independent venues across the country”

“These venues are so important to my state and many states across the country; they are the lifeblood of our communities. They were first to close, and will be the last to open. The bill gives them a fighting chance.”

“We’re thrilled that Congress has heard the call of shuttered independent venues across the country and provided us a crucial lifeline by including the Save Our Stages Act in the Covid-19 relief bill,” adds Dayna Frank, owner and CEO of Minneapolis’s First Avenue (1,550-cap.) and board president of the National Independent Venue Association.

“We’re also incredibly grateful that this bill provides pandemic unemployment assistance, which will help the millions of people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own during this economic crisis. We urge swift passage of this legislation, which will assist those in the greatest need and ensure the music lives on for generations to come.”

In addition to its Save Our Stages component, the wider Covid-19 relief act includes $600 in direct payments to individuals, and $300-a-week boost to unemployment benefits, as well as provisions for food assistance, vaccine distribution, transit and healthcare, Reuters reports.

 


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Spotify joins with NIVA to help US grassroots venues

Spotify has partnered with the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), the newly formed alliance of US grassroots music venues, to help independent music venues across the US that have been shuttered throughout the pandemic.

The streaming giant has donated $500,000 to NIVA’s emergency relief fund for grassroots venues, which are still waiting to find out whether the Save Our Stages act will pass through Congress.

As part of its #2020wrapped campaign, Spotify has also taken over space on the marquees of more than 30 closed music venues to commemorate classic gigs that have taken place on the stages.

The campaigns include Alicia Keys at Riverside Theater in Milwaukee (pictured); Lady Gaga at The Ritz Ybor in Tampa; Childish Gambino at The Aladdin in Portland, The Weeknd at The Orange Peel in Asheville and Jessie Ware at Centre Stage in Atlanta.

“Everyone’s favourite artists started somewhere, and we’re thankful to Spotify for helping us to tell these stories”

“As 2020 draws to a close, the live music industry enters month nine of no shows, no income, no federal support, and ever-mounting debts. Music is what connects us all – as Spotify shows us, it’s what helped our friends, our families and our communities get through this tumultuous year,” says Stephen Sternshein, co-founder and treasurer of NIVA, and managing partner of Heard Presents in Austin.

“Everyone’s favourite artists started somewhere, and we’re immensely thankful to Spotify for helping us to tell these stories. The stories that artists like Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga, The Weeknd, The Strokes, and so many more began on the very stages that today are struggling to survive.”

Dan Brill, global group creative director at Spotify says: “In a year that has taken on so many twists and turns, a first reaction might be to look forward and forget the challenging times. However, that would discount all of the amazing work that creators, fans, venues and activists have poured their hearts into this year.

“That’s why, instead of turning our backs on 2020, we wanted to give our appreciation for those who gave us hope — the people who, despite challenging circumstances, found ways to infuse magic into our world and give us hope for a better tomorrow.”

The Save Our Stages Act stimulus package, which is part of the ‘Heroes Act’, includes a US$10 billion grant programme designed to provide financial support for live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives in the US.

 


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US biz faces “mass collapse” as Trump abandons talks

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) has urged US president Donald Trump to work with legislators on emergency funding for the live sector, after Trump announced he is walking away from talks over further stimulus funding until after 3 November’s presidential election.

Trump, who is recovering from Covid-19, said yesterday (6 October) he has instructed aides to stop negotiations on a new stimulus package until after the election. “Immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill [sic] that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” he tweeted.

Rival presidential candidate Joe Biden accused Trump of “turn[ing] his back” on Americans hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. “If you are out of work, if your business is closed, if your child’s school is shut down, if you are seeing layoffs in your community, Donald Trump decided today that none of that – none of it – matters to him,” said Biden.

Trump’s tweet came as an unwelcome surprise to NVIA, which is counting on the speedy passage of the Save Our Stages Act – part of the wider ‘Heroes Act’ stimulus package – to support the grassroots venue sector through a difficult winter.

“This is real. We need help. We urge Congress and the White House to continue negotiations”

In a statement, NIVA’s director of communications, Audrey Fix Schaefer, says anything less than the immediate resumption of talks would be disastrous for its hundreds of member venues.

“We have been sounding the alarm since April that if our members don’t get emergency assistance, they will go under forever – and it’s happening,” comments Fix Schaefer.

“This is real. We need help. We urge Congress and the White House to continue negotiations and reach a deal quickly or there will be a mass collapse of this industry.

“The Save Our Stages Act has already passed the House [of Representatives] and has strong bipartisan support, with more than 160 Congresspeople cosponsoring, because they know independent venues can be part of our country’s economic renewal once it’s safe to welcome people back – if our venues can survive this pandemic.”

“We’re also hoping for the sake of our furloughed employees that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will be extended, as people are suffering through no fault of their own,” she adds.

 


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