NIVA: Now What?

The National Independent Venue Association was one of the few positive byproducts of the Covid-19 pandemic. As businesses shuttered, NIVA, under the auspices of First Avenue Productions’ Dayna Frank among others, was formed to lobby Congress for emergency relief for independent venues. The association eventually built coalition of more than 3,000 members from all 50 states, Washington DC and Guam.

With the efforts of NIVA, the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant Program was signed into law in December, allocating $15 billion in federal emergency relief via the Small Business Administration. NIVA also raised more than $3 million in relief independently.

This was the motivation behind NIVA’s formation. What does one do now with a trade organization? We asked that question to NIVA spokeswoman Audrey Fix Schaefer

One could say that the National Independent Venue Association has achieved its stated goal, having received government funding of $15 billion. So now what?

Right. NIVA is a 501(c)6. It’s a trade association but the trade org has a 501(c)3, the National Independent Venue Association Foundation, or NIVA Foundation. Underneath that umbrella we have been raising money for, and distributing money through, the Emergency Relief Fund.

It was taking Congress a long time to pass the bill and venues were going under as we waited. We created a fundraiser with YouTube, the Save Our Stages Festival. That was a major contributor to the money we were able to raise. There were others: Jägermeister and other individuals who have donated. We’ve gotten more than $3 million distributed to about 160 venues across the country, giving them a lifeline as they wait federal funding.

Thank goodness we now know that April 8 is when the Small Business Administration is going to open up application processes for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. We cannot wait for that day when venue operators and promoters can get the emergency relief they’ve so desperately needing since last March.

In the meantime, we’ve been readying ourselves as a full-fledged trade association for independent venues, promoters and festivals.

Before, we weren’t together on anything. But it was clear we had to fight for our own, individual business survival and each other’s to be successful. We’ve established loyalty and comradery.

First, we survive, then we thrive.

So what does the future hold?

We’re working on reopening assistance. Venues and promoters can find the most up-to-date literature at our website.

We are also focusing on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for members. While we have been shuttered, a lot has gone on in our country to put a spotlight on our ability to do even better in that regard on DEI. We have a committee that is providing guidance for members on that.

Where exactly can one find the literature?

Members have access to a member portal that includes reopening guidebooks. We get information from all sorts of resources across the country on best practices.

It’s a fast-moving environment right now. Thankfully, the vaccines are coming more quickly and they can’t come soon enough. This is now a post-vaccine industry.

NIVA can be contacted at