Local Current Blog

First Avenue owner Dayna Frank spearheads national effort to save independent music venues

First Avenue, photographed in March 2020. (Lucy Hawthorne for MPR)

No one knows when exactly venues will reopen, but many have speculated that it could be many months or even over a year until we are able to safely gather in large crowds again. “It was estimated that 90% of independent venues and promoters could close if this goes more than six months,” said First Avenue owner, Dayna Frank, in an interview with KARE 11. “If you think about it, that’s a staggering number.”

Obviously, in comparison to other independent businesses, venues aren’t able to adapt as easily. Live music can’t be offered as a take out item, and social distancing is very difficult to do inside of a venue.

Other small businesses are being helped by the Paycheck Protection Program, which, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll, as well as pay for rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. However, that system won’t work for venues that are closed long-term. This program normally only covers businesses for a few months, with paybacks scheduled to happen in the fall. If venues still aren’t driving in revenue come fall, they obviously won’t be able to pay back those loans.

Frank is responding to this dilemma by organizing. She and other independent venue owners across the country have founded the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). Frank is the President of the NIVA board and the lobbying committee chair.  NIVA’s mission is to secure financial support to preserve the national ecosystem of independent venues and promoters.

“We realized that if we are going to make it through we have to do it together and be unified,” said Frank in an interview with Pollstar. “We talked about the need for a group, a trade association or alliance, to be formed with all the independents to share knowledge and resources and, most importantly, to get some representation in D.C. as these stimulus bills are being written to make sure we have resources and protection for the long-term health and future of our industry.”

According to Frank’s interview with Pollstar, NIVA gained 450 members within just a few days, and a week later, the membership had doubled. Frank has since written a letter to congress that was signed by all the NIVA associated venues. The letter, sent on April 22 to Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, House of Representatives Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, explained the importance of independent venues and asked for an extended loan that wouldn’t be paid back until venues reopen.

“I’m certainly going to do everything in my power to make sure that doesn’t happen. My whole life is making sure First Avenue is strong and healthy and able to sustain to the next generation as a beacon for music lovers,” Frank told KARE. “I couldn’t imagine a Minneapolis that doesn’t have First Avenue, but when you think about what we’re facing as an industry, it’s hard to say anything is for sure.”