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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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Marc Geiger announces $75m ‘war chest’ to buy US venues

Marc Geiger has amassed a $75 million ‘war chest’ to bail out US venues that are struggling during the pandemic and help them to reopen.

WME’s former global head of music told The New York Times that he plans to invest in small venues and build an indie touring network to revive the live scene, using funds secured during an initial investment round.

“One of my favourite things in the world is to go to a club, be treated well and see an incredible band,” said Geiger, who left his role at WME in June after 17 years with the company.

“So I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to raise a bunch of money and I’m going to backstop all these clubs. I’m going to be a bailout solution for them, and I’m going to call the company SaveLive’.”

His proposal for SaveLive, which was founded with fellow former WME associate John Fogelman, is to buy at least 51% of the equity in those clubs and help them expand into regional forces once the live sector returns to full strength – which he expects to happen in 2022 when the pandemic will subside and “give way to a second Roaring Twenties, 100 years later.”

“The hope here is to create a network effect. To be a long-term backer, helper, grower of these businesses, and enjoy the wins”

“The hope here is to create a network effect. To be a long-term backer, helper, grower of these businesses, and enjoy the wins,” says Geiger, who insisted that his venue deals would be partnerships and that he would not seek to flip assets.

His primary backer, Jordan Moelis of Deep Field Asset Management, said: “We don’t see this as a distressed-asset play. We see this as a business-building play, a play to be a long-term partner and to be around for a long time.”

Geiger says he’s already negotiating with a number of venues around the country.

The news comes shortly after US president Donald Trump announced he was postponing negotiations on a new stimulus package which would’ve thrown the live sector a much-needed lifeline.

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

The Democratic-controlled House passed the act on Thursday (1 October) but Trump says he won’t return to the negotiating table until after 3 November’s presidential election.

 


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Live Nation, AEG, OVG and more form US coalition

Behemoths of the live music industry, including Live Nation, AEG Presents and Oak View Group, have formed a coalition to petition the US government for relief for live events workers and musicians who have been financially impacted by the shutdown of the live events industry in March.

The Save Live Events Now coalition, which also includes major agencies such as CAA, UTA, and WME, is calling on the US government to expand the Save Our Stages act – a US$10 billion grant programme designed to provide financial support for live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives in the US – to include live event workers.

The bipartisan Save Our Stages act passed through the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on 1 October as part of the wider, revised $2.2 trillion Heroes Act coronavirus stimulus package, but has now stalled after president Donald Trump announced he is walking away from further talks until after 3 November’s presidential election.

“Live entertainment and in-person experiences play vital roles in stimulating our culture, communities, and local economies and venues are the centres that host and make that possible,” says Brad Mayne, CEO at International Association of Venue Managers.

“We need to extend the same [support] to the millions of workers who are just as critical as venues to the future of events”

“Many venues are publicly owned because our society has recognised the important role they play, and now we need to extend that same acknowledgement to the millions of workers who are just as critical to the future of events.”

According to the coalition, 90% of the 12 million industry workers employed by venues and businesses don’t qualify for support under Save Our Stages and it’s estimated that 77% of live event workers have lost 100% of their income.

The coalition is calling for a number of measures including $600 a week in compensation for affected employees for the duration of the shutdown; employer retention tax credits; healthcare subsidies, including an expansion of COBRA to ensure that live events workers do not lose medical coverage; and changes to unemployment insurance to make life easier for live event workers.

More than 20 companies have joined the coalition, to date, including Music Artists Coalition (MAC), Feld Entertainment, Rhino, TAIT, Endeavor, Paradigm, SAG-AFTRA, Bandit Lites, Fullstop Management, Universal Music Group and more.

 


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Save Our Stages Act passes through House of Reps

The House of Representatives has passed the Save Our Stages Act, a US$10 billion grant programme designed to provide financial support for live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives in the US.

The Democratic-controlled House passed the act on Thursday (1 October) as part of the wider, revised $2.2 trillion Heroes Act coronavirus stimulus package.

The Save Our Stages campaign was initially launched by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), a newly formed alliance of US grassroots music venues, which wrote to members of the US Congress in April to ask for immediate assistance for a sector it says is facing an existential crisis as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Subsequently, senators Amy Klobuchar (a Democrat) and John Cornyn (a Republican) authored the Save Our Stages act in July, which proposes grants of either 45% of gross revenue from 2019 or $12m (whichever is less), as well as supplemental grants of up to half the original grant if the entity is still experiencing 80%+ revenue loss as of Dec. 1, 2020.

“We’re cautiously optimistic our elected officials understand that if they assist now, we can be part of the economic renewal”

The grants could be used for payroll and benefits, rent, utilities, mortgage interest payments, interest payments, insurance, personal protective equipment (PPE), existing loans, payments to 1099 employees, and other ordinary and necessary business expenses.

Senator Klobuchar said: “We hope our elected officials come together on Covid-19 assistance in the coming days, not weeks or even months. Our small, independent businesses, which normally contribute billions of dollars to local economies, are on the precipice of mass collapse if this critical funding doesn’t come through.

“We’re cautiously optimistic our elected officials understand that if they assist us now, we can be part of the economic renewal of small towns and big cities, since for every $1 spent on a concert ticket at a small venue, $12 of economic activity is generated for area businesses like restaurants, retail shops, and hotels. This investment will pay off for communities and workers in all 50 states and Washington DC.”

The act was authored after NIVA published a survey revealing that 90% of its members said that if the shutdowns lasted six months or more with no federal help, they would never reopen.

Currently, NIVA has nearly 2,000 charter members in all 50 states, including 9:30 Club in D.C., First Avenue in Minneapolis, Chicago Independent Venue LeagueWorld Cafe Live in PhiladelphiaPabst Theater Group in MilwaukeeRed River Cultural District in Austin, and Exit/In in Nashville.

 


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US live sector adopts #WeMakeEvents campaign

North America is adopting the UK-born initiative #WeMakeEvents with a day of action that will see 1,500 venues lit in red to symbolise the live event industry’s red alert.

The call-to-arms, which will take place on 1 September, has been organised in the hope that the US government will take notice and provide the appropriate support by way of relief funding and necessary legislation.

“Live events have been completely halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads a statement from #WeMakeEvents, North America.

“Because our business is rooted in large group gatherings, we were one of the first industries to be completely shut down (early March) and will be one of the last to return to any operations (well into 2021), let alone restore former prosperity (likely not until 2022 or beyond).

“The live event industry in North America directly employs more than 12 million people and includes hundreds of thousands of businesses with a combined economic impact of over US$1 trillion. This likely includes someone you know, are close to, or it may even include you. If we do not receive government assistance the live events industry will literally collapse, including all of the people involved.”

The campaign sees #WeMakeEvents partner with ExtendPUA.org, which is requesting a continuation and expansion of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which supplements earnings per week for those on unemployment and opens up unemployment to 1099 workers.

The campaign comes after a survey conducted by National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), a new alliance of US grassroots music venues, found that 90% of its members said that if the shutdowns lasted six months or more with no federal help, they would never reopen.

“We were one of the first industries to be shut down and will be one of the last to return, let alone restore former prosperity”

In April, NIVA wrote to members of the US Congress to ask for immediate assistance for a sector it says is facing an existential crisis as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, the alliance is lobbying to push two bills through Congress before the end of August in order to keep independent venues nationwide from permanently closing.

The #SaveOurStagesAct is a new $10 billion grant program for live venue operators, promoters, producers, and talent representatives provides grants of either 45% of gross revenue from 2019 or $12 million (whichever is less), as well as supplemental grants of up to half the original grant if the entity is still experiencing 80%+ revenue loss as of Dec. 1, 2020.

The grants can be used for payroll and benefits, rent, utilities, mortgage interest payments, interest payments, insurance, personal protective equipment (PPE), existing loans, payments to 1099 employees, and other ordinary and necessary business expenses.

The #RestartAct (Reviving the Economy Sustainably Towards a Recovery) is a new loan program that provides funding for six months of payroll, benefits, fixed operating expenses, PPE, accounts payable, and other ordinary and necessary business expenses, with loan amounts of either 45% of gross revenue from 2019 or $12 million (whichever is less).

It features partial loan forgiveness based on losses in revenue, a seven-year loan term, and no principal payments for the first two years. The bill also extends the covered period for loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from eight weeks to 16 weeks. The Restart Act is currently moving through congress but has stalled.

NIVA is also lobbying for tax relief and additional unemployment insurance for employees of shuttered businesses.

Currently, NIVA has nearly 2,000 charter members in all 50 states, including 9:30 Club in D.C., First Avenue in Minneapolis, Chicago Independent Venue LeagueWorld Cafe Live in PhiladelphiaPabst Theater Group in MilwaukeeRed River Cultural District in Austin, and Exit/In in Nashville.

 


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