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Michigan music venues launch #SaveMIStages campaign for financial relief

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

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Music venues in Michigan are expanding their push for financial support from the government in order to keep their doors open.

More than 70 of the state's clubs and theaters, all members of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), have launched a #SaveMIStages stages campaign -- modeled after similar efforts in other states -- to urge the state to establish a $10 million relief fund "to ensure independent venues do not close their doors permanently." The coalition has opened a web page, SaveMIStages.com, where visitors can write letters urging elected officials to find the money for such a fund, which has been done in states such as Texas, Tennessee, Oregon and more.

NIVA estimates that up to 90 percent of independently owned venues may close forever if government relief is not allotted to them.

"NIVA members have spent the past six months lobbying the federal government for meaningful aid," Scott Hammontree, who co-owns and runs the Intersection in Grand Rapids, said in a statement. "To date, this effort has not produced any funding to help secure the future of these venues.

"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."

Concerts of all sizes have largely been eliminated since mid-March by the COVID-19 pandemic, which in addition to local hardships has led to voluminous layoffs at the national and international touring level, including touring crew members and promotion firms such as Live Nation and AEG. The concert scene is not expected to revive until mid-2021 at the earliest, and some are expecting it may take until 2022, when a vaccine is in use and effectively distributed, to fully re-establish the marketplace.

A trio of federal bills have been introduced to try to help, but none have moved forward:

The U.S. Senate's Save Our Stages Act, a $10 billion Small Business Administration grant program to provide six months of additional financial support specifically for music and entertainment venues;

The RESTART Act, a similar measure in the House of Representatives;

And the ENCORES Act, a House bill that would provide a tax credit for 50 percent of the refunds the venues have delivered for events canceled by the pandemic.

The Recording Academy's MusiCares and Live Nation's Crew Nation charity have been established on the private organizational side provide some assistance but are targeted primarily at individuals.

NIVA asserts that bringing relief to venues also helps communities, citing a recent study out of Chicago that $12 is spent in local economies for every $1 spent on concert tickets -- in Michigan's case, a $667 million impact. As Kevin Zink, owner of the Machine Shop in Flint, noted, "The economic impact...goes well beyond our walls...We have gone over six months by no fault of our own without any income or assistance. We need the #SaveMIStages fund to be created in order to make it to the other side of this pandemic."

Web Site: www.SaveMIStages.com

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