Chicago Music Venues Join National Venue Association To Fight For More Funds, Save Local Music Across The Country

Ariel Parrella-Aureli
April 25, 2020 - 4:51 pm
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(Ariel Parrella-Aureli/WBBM)

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- As the effects of COVID-19 continue to devastate small businesses and communities around the world, a local coalition is fighting for the survival of Chicago’s independent music venues.

The Chicago Independent Venue League, a coalition of more than 20 local music venues, helped create the newly-formed National Independent Venue Association, which now includes over 1,000 venues representing all 50 states.

CIVL represents local music venues Avondale Music Hall, Beat Kitchen, Café Mustache, Cole’s Bar, Dorian's, Empty Bottle, GMan Tavern, The Hideout, Lincoln Hall, Martyrs’, Metro, Park West, Patio Theater, The Promontory, Reggies, The Riviera Theatre, Schubas, The Silver Room, Sleeping Village, Smartbar, Subterranean, Thalia Hall, Tonic Room, The Vic, and The Whistler.

"For decades, CIVL venues have played a crucial role in the evolution of Chicago’s music and entertainment communities by nurturing local, national, and international talent, and by providing a platform for these artists to bolster their careers and develop their music," the coalition said in a press release.

"Chicago's independent venues are cultural institutions that feed the local economy, provide thousands of jobs, generate tax revenues, offer charitable donations, and strengthen neighboring businesses," it said. "But the shutdown has been disastrous to Chicago’s venues."

In the last month and a half, entertainment venues are among the hardest hit from the pandemic closures. CIVL reported that since mid-March, 16 venues in the coalition have jointly canceled over 1,200 events, lost nearly 300,000 audience members and over $7 million in revenue. Additionally, the shutdown has impacted over 200 full-time employees who have lost over $1 million in wages; over 1,700 part-time employees have been impacted and have lost over $2 million in wages.

Many Chicago musicians and community members have stepped up to help these venues through money and social media exposure: Venue GoFundMe pages have received thousands of donations from individuals and corporate companies. CIVL and audio company Shure are collaborating with artists such as Joe Trohman from Fall Out Boy, Jeff Tweedy from Wilco, Jamila Woods, Lili Trifilio from Beach Bunny, and BJ the Chicago Kid to share its mission on social media and encouraging their audiences to support CIVL or their own town’s local music venues.

Chicago native Jeff Tweedy from Wilco has been outspoken in supporting local venues during the pandemic. (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

CIVL venues are also currently involved in numerous beneficial activities to fight COVID-19 in Chicago, such as donating resources to the McCormick Alternative Care Facility, which is ahead of schedule for completion

But the coalition said independent music venues need more resources to weather the pandemic storm.

In an April 22 letter to Congress, NIVA asked for more funds to help independent music venues survive the shutdown, saying the pile of expenses — ranging from ticket refunds, paying essential employees to paying utilities and mortgages — is too high and venues can't survive without more assistance.

"Without your help, thousands of independent venues will not survive to see the day when our doors can open to the public again," the letter reads, in part. "Independent venues and promoters are crucial components of the music industry’s ecosystem, without whom there will be dire ramifications for artists as fan spending plummets."

On Friday, President Trump signed into law a $484 billion coronavirus relief package to provide some aid to small businesses and the healthcare system, especially those who felt left out from the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program that quickly ran out of funds. However, CIVL and NIVA want more local and national help, and are concerned that the PPP is not designed to meet the needs of independent music venues.

We stands with @NIVAssoc to request specific federal support for independent venues and promoters across the country during the indefinite shutdown. #SaveOurStages

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CIVL Co-Chairs Katie Tuten from The Hideout and Robert Gomez, who owns Subterranean and Beat Kitchen, said CIVL's venues are crucial to the musical fabric of the city that has been nationally recognized. 

“CIVL includes some of the most historic music venues in Chicago, and in fact, the world. Our venues employ thousands of people and economically fuel our neighborhoods," Tuten and Gomez said in a joint statement. "Our venues help draw millions of tourists to Chicago. For over 100 years, our stages have presented live performers in every genre of music, comedy, and theater; from their first show, through international stardom. CIVL venues never forget that we come from neighborhoods of working people, just trying to make it, just trying to be heard. From the streets of Chicago, to the halls of the nation’s capital, we must fight to sustain the absolute cultural and economic impact of independent music venues.”