Bipartisan legislation would provide crucial assistance to keep live music venues open

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A recent survey found that 90 percent of live music venue owners, promoters and bookers report they could permanently close without additional financial assistance.

Bipartisan legislation backed by Seventh District Democrat Abigail Spanberger, the Save Our Stages Act, would provide federal grants through the SBA to independent live venue operators, promoters and talent representatives.

“Central Virginia’s independent live music venues make our region a vibrant and stronger place to live — and they provide a tremendous economic benefit to surrounding small businesses, hotels, and restaurants. Many of these businesses were already operating on razor-thin margins, and the pandemic has seriously jeopardized their survival, particularly as live venues could be among the last places to reopen,” Spanberger said.

The Save Our Stages Act would provide initial rounds of financial assistance that would cover specified expenses — including payroll costs, rent, utilities, maintenance, and personal protective equipment — incurred between March 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.

The bill would allow for initial grants of up to $12 million to venue owners, promoters or producers. Additionally, it would provide for a supplemental grant that is equal to 50 percent of the initial grant. This second round of financial assistance could be used for expenses through June 30, 2021.

The bipartisan bill would also:

  • Narrowly define independent live venue operators, promoters, and talent representatives to prevent large, international corporations from receiving federal grant funding.
  • Direct the SBA to make grants to eligible venues equal to the lesser of either 45 percent of operation costs from calendar year 2019 or $12 million.
  • Allow the SBA to issue supplemental grants in the future if funding remains available and applicants can demonstrate need.
  • Permit recipients to use grants for costs incurred during the COVID pandemic.
  • Require recipients to return remaining funding after one year from the date of disbursement.

The Save Our Stages Act is endorsed by the National Independent Venue Association, the National Independent Talent Organization, the Recording Academy, Spotify, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Digital Media Association, the National Music Publishers’ Association, the League of American Orchestras, the Songwriters of North America, SoundExchange, Eventbrite, Sony, and Universal.

“We’re very grateful for Rep. Spanberger’s support for the Save Our Stages Act, which we’re desperately hoping will be passed in the next Covid Relief Package this month,” said Dayna Frank, board president, National Independent Venue Association. “Without the SOS Act, 90 percent of NIVA members report they’ll be forced to shutter forever. If that happens, not only will these small businesses go bankrupt through no fault of their own, but also gone are all the jobs, artists coming to town, and the financial benefit we bring to our communities. A study last year showed that for every $1 spent at small music venues, $12 of economic activity was generated for area businesses. If the Save Our Stages Act passes, we can be part of the economic renewal for our towns and the nation.”

Story by Chris Graham


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