From April 8 until April 26, distressed music venues endured several false starts in their effort to obtain much-needed financial assistance from the Small Business Association’s (SBA) Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG). The program—distributing $16 billion in assistance to eligible small businesses that have not been able to operate under COVID-19 guidelines—was delayed for several weeks due to insurmountable technical difficulties.
Nadia Prescher, a co-founder of Madison House and NITO Executive Board member, anticipated an initial crash when the portal first opened on April 8 because of the dire situation thousands of businesses across the country find themselves in. However, the ensuing 18 days of in-access were unexpected. “Each day created more intensity for our members and stakeholders,” says Prescher. She does not envy the SBA’s very critical role in providing assistance. She continues, “The SBA not only had to take a crash course on the independent music business during a global pandemic — with all of its nuances and intricacies — but they were also simultaneously badgered by hundreds of congressional leaders.”
On Monday, April 26 the portal reopened successfully, and NITO members are thankful for the SBA’s “monumental efforts.” Though, Prescher warns that the battle over the future of live music is “not over.” She adds, “We still need the approval process to be a swift one, as people are neck deep, water rising, hands in the air, reaching for SBA life preservers.”
NITO membership comprises more than one hundred independent talent agencies and over one hundred independent management companies across the US representing thousands of artists spanning countless genres and household names. The organization has spent last year, NITO has been lobbying for dire financial relief to the live music industry — advocating for the business owners through a widespread educaitonal campaign about induustry impact. For example, In 2019, collectively, more than 100,000 concerts were booked by NITO’s members across the U.S. with over 25 million tickets sold, generating in excess of $7.5 billion dollars in gross ticket sales. The economic impact from NITO-generated concerts in each local community injects a staggering $90 billion dollars annually.
Another board member and president of Leave Home Booking, Stormy Shepherd, says, “it felt like we could finally take a breath after hitting ‘submit’ on the SVOG application. She adds, “We hope to see venues and small businesses back up and running, fully staffed as we move into this next phase. It is our hope that artists will have the opportunity to safely return to the stage and reunite with their fans once again.”