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US venues able to apply for relief after ‘harrowing’ wait

More than two weeks after its failure to launch, the US Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Shuttered Venue Relief Grant (SVOG) was finally reopened on Monday (26 April).

The operators of shuttered US venues have endured a ‘harrowing’ 18-day wait to apply for a share of the $16 billion in federal relief aid, after the SBA opened and closed the portal on 8 April due to technical difficulties.

After several more stops and starts, the SBA reopened the portal on Monday and in its first 24 hours, received more than 17,000 applications and submitted nearly half of them, according to Variety.

A rep told Variety on Tuesday (27 April), “As of noon ET today [24 hours open], the SVOG portal had received 17,356 applications and, of those, 9,472 had been started and 7,884 had been submitted.” Further information is expected in the coming days.

“From 8 April to 26 April, we were all swinging from a rope”

“Well, that was harrowing,” says Frank Riley, High Road Touring/National Independent Touring Organisation (NITO) executive board.

“From 8 April to 26 April, we were all swinging from a rope. Daily, a thread would break and finally, down to the very end… we made it. We got through. We saw the endpoint of all we have worked toward this past year. Once again, the camaraderie and support we have offered each other was manifest throughout the day, either on emails or by text, or just shouting out the window.

“Now, we all have to wait for the process to make its way through the SBA system and continue to hope for the best. I want to thank each and every one of you for your support, your work, your diligence – and for all of the memes that made us giggle throughout the day.”

“We still need the approval process to be a swift one, as people are neck deep, water rising, hands in the air”

Nadia Prescher, Madison House/NITO executive board, says: “Most of our committee knew that the site was going to crash so sadly, I was not surprised on April 8. What I didn’t expect was 18 more days before the portal would reopen. Each day created more intensity for our members and other stakeholders. However, the pressure on the SBA employees assigned with this task is filled with intensity.

“As dire as our position has been, I personally do not envy the work taken on by the SBA staff. The SBA not only had to take a crash course on the independent music business during a global pandemic (with all of its nuances and intricacies), but they were also simultaneously badgered by hundreds of congressional leaders. Yes they made some missteps, but in the end, the SBA and its SVOG committee took the time to fix the issues and the process Monday accomplished the job at hand.. but it’s not over. We still need the approval process to be a swift one, as people are neck deep, water rising, hands in the air, reaching for SBA life preservers.”

The SVOG, also known as the Save Our Stages Act, is part of a $1.9 billion American Rescue Package which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on 11 March.

 


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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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LN and Veeps add turnkey livestreaming to US venues

Live Nation and Veeps, the ticketed livestreaming platform developed by Joel and Benji Madden, are equipping more than 60 venues around the US with a permanent livestreaming setup.

The Fillmore in San Francisco and Philadelphia, House of Blues in Chicago and New Orleans, The Wiltern in Los Angeles, and a raft of amphitheatres including Shoreline Amphitheater in California and The Gorge in Washington will be the first to go live with the turnkey livestreaming.

The Wiltern has already announced a livestream series, From the Wiltern, which will kick off on 7 May.

Artists who perform at one of the 60+ venues that are being kitted out will have the opportunity to add the element of livestreaming to their concert and ‘double down on revenue’, says Live Nation.

“Amongst artists, it’s often said that the one side of our careers that truly belongs to us is touring,” says Joel Madden, cofounder, Veeps.

“Now, with the flip of a switch, every artist playing in these venues can make their show a global event”

“To help an entirely new touring vertical become readily available to artists is such a huge win for our community and we couldn’t be happier. It’s the exact type of thing that shows what our partnership with Live Nation can really mean for artists.”

“Now, with the flip of a switch, every artist playing in these venues can make their show a global event. We’ve already seen how livestream shows drive engagement across every other area of an artist’s business and the added ticket revenue will allow them to re-invest in their art and make what they’re offering their fans even better. It’s a real dream come true for us at Veeps and our mission to help empower artists in their careers.”

Michael Rapino, president and CEO, Live Nation Entertainment says: “Artists and fans are eager to get back to shows, and livestreams will continue to unlock opportunities for them to connect more than ever before.

“Veeps is the best at what they do, with Benji and Joel tapping into their own experience as artists to help other artists thrive, and we look forward to bringing this innovative idea to life in these iconic venues.”

Earlier this year, Live Nation acquired a majority stake in Veeps, which in 2020 alone hosted around 1,000 paid livestreamed shows by artists including Liam Payne, Pete Yorn, Brandi Carlile, Louis Tomlinson, Architects and Rufus Wainwright.

 


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US venues frustrated after SBA grant portal breaks

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) was forced to close the portal for Shuttered Venue Operating Grants (SVOG) before a single application was received.

Four hours after opening the application process for the highly-anticipated $16.3 billion financial aid, the SBA was forced to close the portal due to insurmountable technical difficulties.

The operators of struggling concert halls in the US, who have waited over a year for targeted financial aid, took to social media to express their frustration at the delay.

Eamon Harkin from New York City-based venue Nowadays tweeted: “It’s been 15 hrs since we’ve had an update. An entire industry is on standby and their responsibilities to their businesses and families are being impacted. Please provide an update on when the process will open again ASAP.”

Prior to the portal opening, the US government watchdog, the Office of Inspector General (OIG), issued a statement questioning the agency’s ability to handle the massive grant program.

“OIG believes that SBA does not have the staff necessary to provide effective oversight over the SVOG program,” the report said. “At this time, SBA has not formalised a plan for staffing this office relative to the volume of applications expected. The agency has also not defined the organisational structure for administering the program.”

The National Independent Talent Organisation (NITO) are more forgiving of the SBA’s technical difficulties but have made a number of recommendations for a smoother, more equitable application process.

“There is a huge pressure to reopen the portal now – political, economic and social”

The first is to create a seven-day business window for rejected submissions to allow applicants the opportunity to correct errors or supplement their application with additional documents.

The second recommendation is that the SBA opens the application process with a 14-day priority window intended for the hardest hit small businesses that suffered a 90% or greater revenue loss.

“While we were all extremely disappointed at the difficulties suffered by all of the folks under the SVOG umbrella, we look forward to a solid and productive reopening once these issues are resolved,” says Frank Riley, NITO President/ High Road Touring.

“There is a huge pressure to reopen the portal now – political, economic and social – but to risk a repeat of what happened 8 April would only compound all of our problems. We need to give the SBA, and the implementation of this very new, and innovative program of assistance to all of the organisations that could benefit from the SVOG, the time to rectify these issues, and then hope for as smooth and productive a roll out as soon as possible.”

The SBA said the decision to close the portal was “not made lightly as we understand the need to ensure critical assistance gets to you as swiftly as possible”.

At the time of writing, the portal remains closed while fix tech issues are fixed. The administration has promised to give advanced warning of reopening so that all eligible applicants will have a fair chance to apply.

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, also known as the Save Our Stages Act, is part of a a $1.9 billion American Rescue Package which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on 11 March.

 


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