U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) last week introduced the Save Our Stages Act, which would provide Small Business Administration grants for independent live music venue operators affected by COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. These grants would provide six months of financial support to keep venues afloat, pay employees, and preserve a critical economic sector for communities across America.
“Texas is home to a number of historic and world-class small entertainment venues, many of which remain shuttered after being the first businesses to close,” said Sen. Cornyn. “The culture around Texas dance halls and live music has shaped generations, and this legislation would give them the resources to reopen their doors and continue educating and inspiring Texans beyond the coronavirus pandemic.”
“Minnesota’s concert halls, theatres, and places of entertainment, like First Avenue in Minneapolis, where Prince famously performed, have inspired generations with the best of local music, art, and education,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “This legislation would help ensure that small entertainment venues can continue to operate, and serve our communities for generations to come.”
Small live music and entertainment venues have been hard-hit during the coronavirus pandemic, with 90 percent of venue owners, promoters, and bookers reporting they are at risk of closing without additional financial assistance and an estimated $9 billion in losses should ticket sales not resume until 2021.
The Save Our Stages Act would:
- 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 Small Business Administrator 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.
- Permit recipients to use grants for rent, utilities, mortgage obligations, PPE procurement, payments to contractors, regular maintenance, administrative costs, taxes, operating leases, and capital expenditures related to meeting state, local, or federal social distancing guidelines.
- Authorize the appropriation of $10 billion for the grant program.
The Save Our Stages Act is endorsed by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and the National Independent Talent Organization (NITO).
“On behalf of our more than 2,000 member venues, promoters, and festivals, as well as their employees, artists, and local communities who are facing an existential crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re incredibly grateful to Senators Cornyn and Klobuchar,” said Adam Hartke, co-chair of NIVA’s Advocacy Committee and president of Hartke Presents. “While existing government assistance programs have helped other industries, they weren’t tailored to meet the needs of small businesses like ours that have zero revenue, enormous overhead and no visibility into when we can fully re-open. The Save Our Stages Act will provide the assistance we need to get through the shutdown until we can reopen safely and once again become the economic generators for our communities that we’ve always been.”
A Chicago study last year showed that for every $1 spent on a ticket at a local venue, $12 of economic activity was generated for area businesses such as restaurants, retailers, and hotels.
In the House, Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Mike Kelly (R-PA) have introduced companion legislation, the bipartisan Entertainment New Credit Opportunity for Relief & Economic Sustainability (ENCORES) Act (HR 7735). The bill followed a call from Congressman Roger Williams (R-Texas) and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) urging congressional support for independent music venues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Congress considers a comprehensive financial support bill to offset the damage created by COVID-19, support for these Congressional bills could make funding for music venues a reality.