The coronavirus lockdown could force 90 percent of independent music venues in the U.S. to close forever, a new survey suggested.
The National Independent Venue Association polled 2,000 members across all 50 states, concluding that, without federal funding, almost all would be forced out of business.
“Independent venues were the first to close and will be the last to reopen,” NIVA said in a statement. “Venues have zero revenue, but obligations like mortgage and rent, bills, loans, taxes and insurance continue. We have no work to offer our employees for the foreseeable future. The shutdown is indefinite and likely to extent into 2021.”
The association argued that opening under social distancing rules, which would mean substantially reduced venue capacities, was not “economically viable,” noting that costs “are not on a sliding scale matching the capacity we’re permitted to host.”
“Due to the national routing of most tours, our industry will not recover until the entire country is open at 100 percent capacity,” the statement added. “NIVA members need assistance in order to survive until that day.”
Among the supporting arguments presented, it was noted that an estimated $9 billion would be lost in ticket sales alone – not including food and drink revenue – if properties remained closed until the end of the year. NIVA also said that 75 percent of most artists’ incomes came from live performance, and “that for every $1 spent on a ticket at an independent venue, a total of $12 of economic activity was generated.”
“Our passionate and fiercely independent operators are not ones to ask for handouts,” NIVA president Dayna Frank said. “But because of our unprecedented, tenuous position, for the first time in history, there is legitimate fear for our collective existence. … NIVA has requested specific funding programs to assist for the duration of the government’s mandatory shutdown. The goal is to enable independent venues to survive the crisis, reopen in the future and once again contribute to the economic revival of our communities.”
Meanwhile, a U.K. independent venue demonstrated why it would be impossible to reopen under social distancing regulations, which are broadly similar to those in the U.S. Hangar 18 in Swansea, Wales, issued a diagram showing that their capacity would drop from 370 to just 26. Operators described the theoretical plan as “a nail in the coffin.”
“We would lose £700 a night assuming we sell out,” they said. “We’ve been reluctant to ask for funding … but after plotting these plans, it does make us worry about our future.”