The National Independent Venue Association has joined forces with music venues and supporters to give a voice to the industry at a federal level—three of these venues call Gainesville home.
Gainesville’s The Florida Theater, High Dive and The Fest punk festival, have joined NIVA, along with 1,600 other venues nationwide. The venues are aiming to achieve recognition from legislators and federal financial assistance for themselves and businesses like them, which many believe is essential to their survival.
NIVA was formed in March in response to COVID-19-related business shutdowns to support independent music and entertainment venues. Venue owners from across the country began meeting and communicating virtually, seeking a more powerful voice in the federal legislative process, leading to NIVA.
One of the venues included in these talks was High Dive, Facility and Events Manager Pat Lavery said. As High Dive navigates this uncertain time, Lavery said it’s incredible to see people coming together to save the industry and to save music.
“It’s a delicate ecosystem and industry,” Lavery said. “We’re all linked and we all rely on each other. And so the health of one venue affects the health of another venue. The health of an artist affects the venues. It goes on and on.”
NIVA’s most immediate goal is lobbying Congress for the inclusion of independent venues in the CARES Act and a review of the Paycheck Protection Program, NIVA Vice President Stephen Chilton wrote in an email.
“The original stimulus in April did not work for venues at all even though we have been the hardest hit businesses,” Chilton wrote. “No venue will survive if we don't get big federal help. 90% of our members said they could not last 6 months without aid.”
Much of the fight for federal assistance for these independent establishments rests in the argument of their pivotal role in a community and its economy. NIVA approximates that for every dollar a music venue makes in ticket sales, up to $12 can be made by surrounding businesses, Chilton wrote.
“Right now we are just hoping for survival,” Chilton wrote. “We need large support right now or no independent venues will survive this. None of us will survive without aid. Not even the largest and best known.”
Chilton hopes to see NIVA continue to grow and affect change for the businesses and industry it’s fighting for now. However, he can only see it doing so with help from the public in gaining Congress’s recognition.
“Ours is a truly grassroots movement,” Chilton wrote. “We are telling DC how important we are to people and we need everyone to tell DC how true that is.”