At a press conference last week in front of Williamsburg live music mainstay Baby’s All Right, Senator Chuck Schumer and LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy - a longtime Brooklyn resident - rallied in support of the Save Our Stages Act.
If passed, the bill would earmark $10 billion toward balancing the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the live music industry. The legislation would provide eligible live venue operators, producers, promoters, or talent representatives with Small Business Administration grants of up to $18 million that can be used to foot the bill for payroll costs, rent, utilities and PPE purchases.
Introduced by senators John Cornyn and Amy Klobuchar, the Save Our Stages Act is backed by a total of 28 cosponsors, including Schumer, as well as dozens of artists such as the Foo Fighters, Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga, Jimmy Buffett, Coldplay and Vampire Weekend.
“Independent venues, like theaters and concert halls, are the beating heart of New York’s cultural life and a driving force in the economy,” said Schumer. “These local businesses were among the first to shut down at the start of the pandemic, are struggling to stay afloat, and will be among the last to reopen.
“That’s why it’s so important to provide dedicated federal assistance to independent venues so when it is safe,” added the Senate minority leader, “we can gather again for music, comedy, theater and other live performances in venues that have been around for generations.”
Also present at last week’s rally were Reverend Moose, executive director of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), as well as several owners of indie venues in New York City, from Iridium to The Stand.
They outlined the precarious situation these spaces find themselves in as live entertainment spaces are still unable to reopen doors.
“Although independent music venues have access to PPP loans, the length of this shutdown means that venue owners are unable to utilize these loans in a way to receive forgiveness or pay our overhead costs,” said Dhruv Chopra, co-founder of East Williamsburg venue Elsewhere. “Federal grants are the best way to keep us afloat.”
Ninety percent of NIVA members reported they would be forced to shutter permanently if relief funding doesn’t arrive, an outcome that would be devastating to communities as well.
In addition to live events accounting for the majority of musicians’ income, venues and entertainment hubs like Broadway drive business to local restaurants, hotels, taxis and retail stores.
“New York City’s culture is tied inextricably to the city's sustainability, and independent venues are the city’s cultural hubs,” explained Justin Kantor, NIVA vice president and co-founder of Le Poisson Rouge in Lower Manhattan. “From tourism to real estate, our collective economic impact is in the billions.
The current situation is devastating and if nothing is done, venues that have been around for decades will go out of business,” he added.
Music fans can can show their support for the measure at saveourstages.com.