A message from Louisville music venues

More than 1,000 music venues across the country and in Louisville have formed the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) to lobby Congress for financial support during the shutdown. LEO wrote last week about its efforts. Below is an op-ed from local members explaining why the music industry is in desperate need of help.

Shutdown. Postponed. Canceled. Indefinite. Uncertain.

As Louisville’s top independent music venues, promoters and music festivals fight for survival amid closures due to COVID-19, these words — and everything they have come to mean for us in these unprecedented times — have become the frightening new normal.

Our local independent small to mid-sized venues and promoters, the ones that work hard to keep our vibrant local music scene alive, were the first to close and will likely be the last to reopen.

The pandemic brought our operations to a screeching halt and the continued impact threatens our very existence. The complete and sudden shutdown is a devastating blow with revenues diminished while overhead costs like rent, utilities, taxes and insurance responsibilities remain. Pollstar estimates a $9 billion loss in ticket sales alone (not counting food and beverage revenue) if venues remain closed through the end of 2020.  Without immediate financial assistance, several cities estimate that 90 percent of their locally owned and operated venues will never open again. We desperately hope ours will not be one of those cities.

To help prevent this, we have come together as part of the newly established National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) with one primary goal: to preserve the music ecosystem in our local communities. We play a vital role in our towns’ and neighborhoods’ economies and culture. Unlike restaurants, hardware, grocery and liquor stores, venues have no way to pivot our function to serve our community. There is no “contactless” version of live music or “take-out” way to offer the nightlife and entertainment our venues provide.

The livelihoods of a diverse community of venue staff have been lost — employees like security, bar, production and box office workers, as well as the artists that play their stages, are struggling. Surrounding businesses are also losing out on revenue normally gained from fans traveling to the area for shows including restaurants, cafes, retail establishments, hotels and developers. Studies have shown that for every dollar spent at a small venue, $12 of economic activity is generated.

In this perilous time, this is about more than just survival — it’s about returning to be the economic generators, culture providers and community leaders that we have always been. Louisvillians deserve as much.

Large, national companies are enjoying the benefits of cash infusions from Wall Street while mom and pop independent venues — the heart and soul of our communities — are in urgent need of help. Many of the stipulations around relief funds deem them meaningless to music venues and promoters, and this is why NIVA, which now comprises more than 1,300 venues and promoters from all 50 states is requesting federal support that specifically addresses the needs of independent venues and nightlife establishments; support that will hold us over until we are able to safely open again at full capacity.

Together, we can add one word to that initial list: Resilience. With your assistance, we will come back stronger than ever.

How can you help? Contact your elected representatives to ensure we have the financial support needed to weather this storm until we’re able to reopen and gather together once more. We need your voice today, so we can all sing together again tomorrow. Taking action is easy and takes less than a minute: saveourstages.com

Help us survive, so we can once again thrive. We look forward to welcoming you through our doors once again.

Lisa Frye, Art Sanctuary
Jared Matthews, Diamond Concert Hall
Bradley Hammond, Galaxie
Joe Argabrite, Headliners Music Hall
Mark Evans, Landline Presents
Brian Goodwin, Jimmy Can’t Dance
McKinley Moore, Kaiju
Steven Fitzgerald, Magnolia Bar & Grill
James Gunnoe, Nachbar
Chris Witzke, Odeon
Billy Hardison, Production Simple
Terry Harper, Terry Harper Presents
Third Street Dive
Catie Nelson, Waterfront Park