NIVA Con 2022 State of the Union

Jul
18
th
2022

What an absolute honor to be in this room. NIVA always astounds me, but never more than today. 

We went from strangers and work acquaintances to daily zooms. We united an entire industry and saved live music. In the first few months of our existence, NIVA garnered national news coverage and magazine covers and saw artists at every stage in their careers using and sharing #saveourstages. From absolutely nothing to passing the largest arts funding bill in American history.

Truly astounding.

Last month a NIVA friend thanked Advisory Board member Dave Grohl for his support throughout 2020.  Dave’s response was so genuine and humbling. “I did it for us, man,” he said. “I did it for us.”

For a brief moment, at the depth of our crisis, our cause became everyone’s cause.

Now it’s 2022, and we’re no longer a cause. We are an Association – no, AN AWARD-WINNING TRADE ASSOCIATION – at our conference – no, our SOLD OUT CONFERENCE.  Sitting here today are independent businesses providing entertainment, jobs, economic impact, and community space for our hometowns and major cities in all 50 states, D.C., and the territories.

Our doors may be back open, but we all know we are far from business as usual. Many of us are still climbing out of the abyss that was January and February. 

We see the rising costs in every corner of operating a venue and promoting shows and for artists on the road. Cancellations and continual postponements are still coming as we continue to navigate Covid surges and new variants.

Our ecosystem is facing an ever greater mental-health crisis as we work through a constantly changing and demanding environment.

Last month the First Avenue family lost a member of our team to mental health challenges.

While reflecting on the pain of losing a beloved colleague our Operations Director wrote,

“There’s still so much joy to be found,
Even if you have trouble seeing that hope yourself,
it’s there in the eyes of that kid at their first show,
in the artists as they take the stage to the roar of the crowd,
and in the beaming satisfaction that spreads, electric, as the lights come up and everyone walks out in shared experience, and off into their own existence.”

That’s what we do.

We provide a way for misfits and music lovers to make a living through their passion. We bring hope and joy to our communities. We create the moments that make life worth living.  And we get to have a little fun along the way.

That’s why we do it.

And – importantly – we do it INDEPENDENTLY.  We are the only ones responsible for our successes and failures; if the lights turn on; if staff can pay their rent; if our favorite artist has a safe space to play. Being independent means we risk everything every day to do what we do, and we love every minute of it. Most days. I think.

When the worst thing imaginable actually happened, we had no corporate backstop. We had nowhere to turn but to each other. That’s the fundamental truth of NIVA.

SVOG was the lifeline we needed to get us as far as we’ve gotten today. We also know those funds came to a close last week. So now what?

This is where NIVA shines. In the face of tough circumstances, we came together, saving live music and our livelihoods, and there’s exactly how we’ll move forward – together – rising all tides as we navigate our next normal.

Our advocacy team is unparalleled – Casey Higgins and Ed Pagano from Akin Gump, and the self-named “fuckers” – take a bow. To put your work into context, when Congress was deciding which industries were worth saving, they determined it was airlines…and independent live music. Fucking unreal.

If you talked to your precinct captain, reached out to a congressional office, placed a NIVA logo on your website, donated funds, sent an email to your customers, or used your social media – give yourself a round of applause.

Everyone in this room contributed to the cause. That is how you pass the largest arts funding bill in American history. 

This kind of organizing is wildly powerful and it doesn’t have to stop at Save Our Stages. While I’m very happy “first to close, last to open” will probably be inscribed on my tombstone, we have more work to do.

Next, we’re going to take on deceptive ticketing practices, including speculative tickets; we’ll educate our leaders about the public performance royalties; and we’ll address an issue long worked on by a champion of ours, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar – antitrust.

NIVA will continue to be a voice on social and community matters, including stating support for Senator Cornyn’s recent gun legislation, a statement he retweeted.

This year NIVA is going to DC. Please put a save-the-date in your calendars for our first “fly-in” the week of Feb 13, 2023. I am so excited to see us in the halls of Congress.

We know so many of our problems are local, if not hyperlocal, and we are focusing on the support NIVA chapters need to fight more effectively on a state and city level.

But NIVA is more than advocacy. We’re deep into work that will directly benefit our small businesses and entire ecosystem. We know that together we’re unstoppable – so we’re maximizing ways we can work together to benefit us all. Plans in motion include:

  • Forming a group purchasing cooperative, giving us access to costs and services previously available only to national corporations
  • Revamping NIVAcare and launching NIVA commercial, offering better coverage and rates
  • Working with the PROs and industry partners to create a more transparent and equitable performance royalty payment system
  • Developing an Artist discovery program to uplift diverse voices and help our local talent reach the mainstream

Together we can create a live music industry that celebrates and rewards staying independent. We can have an industry that doesn’t just happen to us; we can make the industry we want, but we can only do it together.

With all the repeated mentions of us being more powerful together, I need to make a very special and loud thank you to someone who has been relentless at bringing us together.

Moose

While we have launched the search for NIVA’s next executive director, it will be wild trying to fill your immeasurable shoes. We would not be where we are today as an organization and absolute force, without your creativity, passion, and dedication to everyone here today.

Thank you, Moose.

To Boris and See Tickets – you answered our call when we were a few ragtag promoters who wanted to hire a lobbyist. You had absolutely no right to believe in us, but you did.

To our friends and allies in NITO, thank you for being with us in solidarity and hard work every step of the way, from Save Our Stages to Cleveland and beyond.

I want to acknowledge Stephen Chilton, who dreamt of this conference since the very first NIVA Board meeting, kept it top of the agenda in every meeting since, and is the reason we’re here.

A huge shout out to Sean Watterson and every venue in Cleveland for the hospitality, warm welcome and making us fall in love with Cleveland.

To Jen Lyon, Audrey Fix Schaefer, Jamie Loeb, Jim Brunberg – thank you for your leadership and daily programming calls putting together this absolutely extraordinary lineup. 

To the NIVA Board, the Foundation Board, the Advisory Board, and NIVA staff, you forever have my respect. I’m constantly in awe of the way you use your talents to move us all forward.

I am going to be forever grateful for the friendship, the talent, and the outcomes this life changing journey has brought.

I know you all want to dive in and I’m ready to dig in too. Let’s get to work.

⏤ Dayna Frank, 7/11/22

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