By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Apr 27, 2020 at 2:02 PM

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In order to help the live entertainment industry survive the challenges created by the pandemic, hundreds of venues across the country have come together to form the National Independent Venue Association, which seeks to lobby government and garner financial support.

According to a statement released by NIVA, "the pandemic has brought a crashing halt to business operations of small and mid-sized venues across the country and threatens their existence," and the new association plans, "to fight for the survival of independent venues, their employees, artists, fans and their communities."

Among the 450 charter members in 43 states are world renowned venues like Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club, First Avenue in Minneapolis – where the concert scenes in Prince’s "Purple Rain" movie were filmed – World Cafe Live in Philadelphia and Exit/In in Nashville.

Milwaukee venues that have joined include the Cactus Club, Pabst Theater Group, Shank Hall, Brookfield’s Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, Site 1A, The Cooperage, the Miramar and The Rave/Eagles Club.

"Music venues were the first to close and will be the last to open," said Dayna Frank, NIVA board member and owner of First Avenue in Minneapolis, in a statement.

"It’s just brutal right now, and the future is predictable to no one. We can’t envision a world without these music venues, so we’ve created NIVA to fight for their ability to survive this shutdown, which we hear could go into 2021. Our first order of business is to push to secure federal funding to preserve the ecosystem of live music venues and touring artists."

NIVA says that according to a 2016 IBISWorld study, the live music industry produced $23.5 billion in annual revenue, including travel and tourism revenue for home cities. While that revenue has instantly evaporated, the venues’ expenses have not.

"Independent venues and promoters have a unique set of circumstances that require specialized assistance, so we’ve banded together and secured a powerhouse lobbying firm," said the Pabst Theater Group’s Gary Witt.

"Akin Gump has been tapped to represent us, and that telegraphs to Capitol Hill that our needs are serious. Most of us have gone from our best year ever to a dead stop in revenues, but our expenses and overhead are still real, and many will not make it without help. Our employees, the artists, and the fans need us to act. But we are also an important income generator for those around us, bringing revenue to area restaurants, bars, hotels and retail shops. Our contributions to the tax base far exceed our ticket sales."

Rev. Moose, a co-founder of NIVA and managing partner of Marauder, which runs Independent Venue Week, said that the association will do more than simply lobby for financial aid.

"In addition to going to Capitol Hill to seek funds, NIVA will also offer key survival tools to members by sharing resources, information, and providing guidance on the Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program," he said.

"Independent venues and promoters might be in dire straits, but they’re motivated to fight for their survival."

To learn more about NIVA, including sponsorship opportunities, as well as a list of member venues and how to become one of them, visit nivassoc.org.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.