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Michigan music venues declare day of action to support finanical aid bills

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Music venues in Michigan, quiet since the Covid-19 pandemic hit in mid-March will be making some noise on Monday, June 27 -- for their survival.

The 66 state clubs, theaters and agencies associated with the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) have declared a Day of Action to support two congressional bills in Washington, D.C., designed to help them weather the storm. The U.S. Senate's Save Our Stages Act is a $10 billion Small Business Administration grant program to provide six months of additional financial support specifically for music and entertainment venues.

A similar bill, the RESTART Act, has been proposed in the House of Represntatives, while another House bill, the ENCORES Act, would provide a tax credit for 50 percent of the refunds the venues have delivered for events canceled by the pandemic.

On Monday, "our hope is that many thousands of Michigan music supporters write their senators and representatives and tell them why independent venues matter to them," says Nate Dorough, a talent buyer and manager who's active with the local wing of NIVA. "It's crunch time in D.C., and one of these bills needs to be in (Senate Majority Leader)Mitch McConnell's recovery package. And how that happens is that our representatives make sure it happens.

"If it's not, indie venues will close. Lots of them. Probably your favorite ones."

In addition to writing and calling congressional representatives, the NIVA locals are asking fans and patrons to post messages of support on social media, using the hashtags #SaveOurStages and #SaveMichiganStages through the day Monday. The venues themselves will be active in messaging.

The roster of Michigan NIVA venues covers the entire state, including facilities as large as the 7,000-seat Aretha Franklin Amphitheater in Detroit to the 90-capacity 20 Front Street in Lake Orion. Others on the list are the Crofoot Ballroom and Electricity in Pontiac, the Magic Bag in Ferndale, the Ark and the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, the Deisel Theatre in Chesterfield, the Token Lounge in Westland, Livonia's Trinity Theatre and the Machine Shop in Flint.

Some venues, including restaurants, in the state have begun offering outdoor performances with limited capacity and restrictions such as masks and social distancing. Detroit's Music Hall Center hosted a Detroit Music Weekend on Saturday, July 25, limited to 88 patrons, while The Aretha held a concert by the techno group Inner City, capped at 100 fans per state and city mandates.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra will begin a series of outdoor concerts on Aug. 5, with less than tickets sold per show.

NIVA, which formed during March, as a lobby organization for the venues and boasts more than 2,000 members around the country. At the time it predicted that most of its members would not be able to last six months without federal aid, and that more than half would close after just three months of being shut down.

The organization notes that among the first to close and the last targeted to reopen in most plans, the venues have lost 100 percent of their revenue due to the closure. "There's no takeout version of concerts," NIVA says in a statement. "Drive-ins and virtual streaming shows don't begin to pur our people back to work. The gig economy has been shuttered and many thousands of our friends are at home, hoping the government keeps them fed while our industry figures out what's next."

More information is available at saveourstages.com.

Similar issues are being addressed for entertainment venues around the world. The British government is permitting indoor concerts in England starting Saturday, July 1, though advocates there say that attendance restrictions will make the prospect economically unfeasible. In Germany, meanwhile. scientists are recruiting up to 4,000 volunteers to attend an Aug. 22 concert by singer-songwriter Tim Bendzko in Leipzig, where they'll use to technology to measure the manner in which the virus may be spread in a live performance setting.

Web Site: www.saveourstages.com

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