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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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