shuttered venue grants

Shuttered Venue Grants Are Back

The US Small Business Administration reopened the Shuttered Venue Grant application portal on April 26th, much to the relief of independent venue owners across the United States. This step comes after weeks of delays due to the technical difficulties following the original April 8th launch. 

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant is part of Congress’ $900 billion COVID relief package, which was signed into law on December 27, 2020, following nine challenging months for independent venues and live event organizations across the United States. Through this grant, which is part of the Save Our Stages Act, the SBA is offering $16.25 billion to independent venues, museums, theaters, promoters, and more. $15 billion is coming from the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act (December 2020) and $1.25 billion is coming from the American Rescue Plan Act (March 2021). 

shuttered venue grant

The SVOG is accepting applications on a first come, first serve basis, but will be distributing aid based on priority. Priority One applicants, which are businesses that lost over 90% of their income in 2020, “will receive notice of awards this month and disbursement by the end of May,” according to the SBA. This distribution will be repeated for Priority Two entities, which lost over 70% of their revenue, in June. Following federal grant award policies, the SBA will contact recipients after final decisions are made and send a Notice of Award, which is a “legally binding issuance of the award.” After signing this agreement and receiving the aid, venues must meet the terms and conditions of the grant, including documenting how the funds are spent and keeping detailed employment records for the next four years. 

Over 10,000 small business owners flocked to the SVOG application website last Monday, with many venue operators describing this process as a light at the end of the tunnel after a challenging year. Many are hoping for a quick approval process, so that venues and similar organizations can begin to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Barb Carson, the Deputy Associate Administrator of SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance, released a statement saying the SBA “recognize[s] the urgency and need to get this program up and running,” and that they were planning on beginning the application review process on Saturday, May 1. 

As of May 4th, 10,300 applications have been submitted and 12,238 have been started, with 17,356 of these applications filed within 24 hours of the application opening. According to a SBA press release, of the submitted applications, 4,227 have come from live venue operators and promoters, 2,389 from live performing arts organization operators, 1,362 from motion picture theatre operators, 1,135 from talent representatives, 665 from theatrical producers, and 544 from museum operators. 

This assistance comes in part due to the hard work of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), which rallied throughout 2020 for Congress to pass relief for independent venues struggling due to COVID-19. In a statement sent to Billboard, NIVA said: “We’re grateful that the Shutted Venue Operators Grant application portal successfully opened yesterday and that thousands of businesses have applied so far. These grants will allow eligible entities to pay off mountains of debt incurred over the last 13 months of being closed with nearly all revenue lost, as well as fund reopening efforts — including saving jobs and hiring staff — when it’s safe to do so. It’s imperative that the United States has an ecosystem of live venues for music and arts, serving as integral parts of our culture and our communities, boosting the local businesses that surround them.

For more information on how to apply for a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, check out the SVOG User Guide. 

the oscars

Who had the best live performance at the Oscars?


Like many awards shows this past year, this weekend’s 93rd Academy Awards left much to be desired. However, luckily for music lovers, the Best Song performances managed to avoid the awkwardness and disorganization that plagued much of the evening. In case you missed the show, here are our rankings: 

5. Speak Now (One Night in Miami)

WRITERS: Sam Ashworth and Leslie Odom. Jr

PERFORMER: Leslie Odom Jr. 

Standing on the roof of the new Academy Museum in Los Angeles, CA, Tony-winner Leslie Odom Jr. gave a beautiful performance of “Speak Now,” from the end-credits of Regina King’s One Night in Miami. The Hollywood skyline served as a stunning backdrop to Odom Jr.’s presentation as he stood alone on a large circular stage surrounded by mist, powerfully pleading the listener to make their voices heard and fight for what is right, reiterating a major theme of the film. However, although the visuals were remarkable and Leslie Odom Jr.’s talent is undeniable, the performance lacked energy and ended up feeling monotonous compared to the other presentations of the evening, landing itself in last place. 

4. Io Sì (Seen) (The Life Ahead)

WRITERS: Diane Warren and Laura Pausini 

PERFORMER: Laura Pausini 

In fourth place sits Laura Pausini’s performance of the Italian song “Io Sì” from The Life Ahead. Pausini demonstrated incredible vocals throughout the sentimental and mellow piece, accompanied by Diane Warren on piano and a large orchestra surrounding the stage. In addition, this performance, also presented on the roof of the Academy Museum, was visually very impressive, with blue and red outfits and sets beautifully complementing a pink sunset. However, despite these promising characteristics, the performance fell flat and felt a little long, mostly due to the pitfalls of the song itself, which has been criticized for having generic and somewhat predictable sentiments. Furthermore, many of the lyrics were sung in English, taking away much of the charm of the original Italian song. 

3. Hear My Voice (The Trial of the Chicago Seven) 

WRITERS: Daniel Pembelton and Celeste


Although “Hear My Voice” has been criticized as a somewhat underwhelming theme for The Trial of the Chicago Seven, Celeste showed a different side to the song during her performance on Sunday night. Starting this rendition in a capella, the British singer-songwriter offered a stunning plea for the audience to “hear [her] voice, hear [her] dreams.” She was then joined by a beautiful piano instrumental and dozens of violinists, making good use of the (somewhat unusual) performance location on the roof of the Academy Museum and creating a beautiful atmosphere. Though at some points Celeste may not have seemed as comfortable on stage as the evening’s other singers and the song did become repetitive, her voice and the instrumental accompaniment carried the performance, earning it third position.  

2.Husavik (My Hometown) (Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of the Fire Saga) 

WRITERS: Rickard Göransson, Fat Max Gsus, and Savan Kotecha

PERFORMERS: Molly Sandén, Rachel McAdams, Will Ferrell

Coming in an extremely close second is Husavik, from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of the Fire Saga. A powerful song about love and home, Husavik was the only Oscar nominated song that was actually performed during its movie, rather than during the closing credits. On Sunday, Swedish powerhouse Molly Sandén gave a stunning performance of “Husavik” on the other side of the globe, standing on a dock in front of an incredible Icelandic skyline (a setting similar to that seen in the Eurovision Song Contest movie). Accompanied by the sound of seagulls, Sandén performed alongside a children’s choir from Husavik and a variety of instrumentalists. Sandén clearly felt the lyrics deeply, and her vocals were almost unbelievable, with both literal and metaphorical fireworks accompanying her final high note. Offering a varied sound, an interesting setting, and an ensemble that really took you into the Icelandic mountains, Sandén and her accompaniment put together one of the most engaging performances of the Oscars. 

1. Fight for You (Judas and the Black Messiah) 

WRITERS: D’Mile, H.E.R., and Tiara Thomas


Taking first place (and the Oscar for Best Song) is H.E.R.’s “Fight for You,” a smooth, upbeat song about being heard and calling for action. In an interesting shift away from the primarily solo performances of the evening, H.E.R. began the song surrounded by a dozen people singing, playing instruments, and dancing to the music, all wearing outfits on theme with Judas and the Black Messiah. The energy was infectious, and you could tell that H.E.R. was not just feeling the lyrics, but really enjoying her time on stage. In addition, the performance thematically fit in perfectly with the film, as the stage was used to display video footage of members of the Black Panther Party and their speeches, including Fred Hampton and Huey Percy Newton. Throughout the song, H.E.R. not only perfectly managed her role as a leader, singing and playing the drums beautifully, but also fit into the ensemble seamlessly when needed. This powerful performance of “Fight For You” presented a perfect blend of musical artistry and cinematic connection to Judas and the Black Messiah, adding a unique flare to this year’s Oscars performances and earning it first place. 

House Democrats Move to Investigate Live Nation’s Ticketing “Monopoly”

live nation

House Democrats Move to Investigate Live Nation’s Ticketing “Monopoly”

On Monday, a group of Democrats in the House of Representatives penned a letter urging President Joe Biden’s administration to revisit the 2010 merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation, claiming that this deal created a monopoly on the ticketing industry, “strangled competition, … and harmed consumers.” 

The letter, which was directed towards Attorney General Marrick Garland and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, was written in the context of the Biden administration’s strong antitrust policies, which are viewed as even more aggressive than those in the Obama administration (which originally approved the contentious Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger). Five House Representatives came together on this initiative, with Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) leading the charge, supported by Representative Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ, Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee), Representative David Cicilline (D-RI, Chair of the House Antitrust Subcommittee), Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL, Chair of the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee), and Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee). 

These authors began the correspondence by arguing that “Live Nation Entertainment … holds more than 80 percent of the venue ticket sales market” due to its “potentially unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices.” The Representatives went on to criticize LNE’s grasp on not just the primary ticket sale industry, but also on the resale marketplace, specifically sharing concerns pertaining to the new “SafeTix” app, which was introduced to “ensure that tickets can only be resold or gifted within the Ticketmaster system.” 

The letter also condemned LNE for “mask[ing] its anticompetitive instincts under the guise of public health.” The House Representatives wrote that LiveNation took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to introduce new measures that were advertised as promoting safety in concert venues, but which actually served to prevent resale and competition. For example, the authors claimed that LNE’s new ticket transfer technology, which was branded as making “entry safer,” is actually a power grab, requiring almost all event attendees to be registered with Ticketmaster and disabling the resale of tickets. 

Live Nation already came under fire in 2019 for violating its merger restrictions by combining “ticket, promotion, concert and management business” and threatening to withhold concerts from venues using other ticketing agents, prompting the DOJ to bind LNE to its consent decree for 5 years beyond its expiration in 2020. However, in this week’s letter, the House Representatives argued that this extension was not enough to protect the ticketing industry from Live Nation’s “anticompetitive behavior,” and insisted that the Biden administration further investigates LNE’s practices in order to effectively protect consumers. 

This letter follows an unquestionably devastating year for LNE. With almost all concerts canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Live Nation’s revenue dropped 98% and 95% in the second and third quarters last year, respectively. However, LNE is beginning to recover, thanks to both its January purchase of the live streaming platform Veeps and the high US vaccination rate, which suggests the second half of 2021 will witness a return to in-person live events. 

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