U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has introduced a bill aimed at helping small music venues survive the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill, introduced Wednesday, proposes setting aside $10 billion to distribute over the next six months, with individual venues able to apply for grants of up to $12 million.
The bill, branded as the Save Our Stages Act, would allow for venues to apply for up to 45 percent of their 2019 operating costs, up to the $12 million cap, to help fund them if they anticipate being shuttered through the rest of the year. Funds would be permitted to be used for rent, utilities, mortgage, PPE procurement, payment to contractors, maintenance, administrative costs, taxes, operating leases, or capital expenditures related to meeting social distancing guidelines.
“Minnesota’s concert halls, theaters, and places of entertainment, like First Avenue in Minneapolis, where Prince famously performed, have inspired generations with the best of local music, art, and education,” said Klobuchar, who co-authored the Save Our Stages Act with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). “This legislation would help ensure that small entertainment venues can continue to operate, and serve our communities for generations to come.”
“Texas is home to a number of historic and world-class small entertainment venues, many of which remain shuttered after being the first businesses to close,” said Sen. Cornyn. “The culture around Texas dance halls and live music has shaped generations, and this legislation would give them the resources to reopen their doors and continue educating and inspiring Texans beyond the coronavirus pandemic.”
Interestingly, the Save Our Stages Act seeks to “narrowly define independent live venue operators, promoters, and talent representatives to prevent large, international corporations from receiving federal grant funding.” That means companies like Live Nation would be deliberately omitted from applying for the funding program.
This should come as little surprise, given the Minnesota senator’s record of criticism of the live entertainment behemoth. Last year, Sen. Klobuchar joined Sen. Richard Blumenthol (D-CT) in urging the Department of Justice investigation of Live Nation over anti-trust allegations, which eventually led to a negotiated extension of a consent decree the company initially entered in 2010 as a condition of its Ticketmaster acquisition.
“Americans purchase millions of tickets each year and shouldn’t be forced to pay sky-high prices because of corporate greed in a broken ticketing industry,” Klobuchar said in a statement applauding DOJ’s decision to investigate the company. “As I have expressed time and again, the online ticket markets don’t work for American consumers. Lack of competition due to excessive consolidation has led to inadequate disclosures and inflated fees when people go to purchase tickets to live events.”
Should the Save Our Stages Act pass, it would also allow the Small Business Administrator to issue supplemental grants in the future, should funding remain – it, however, does not currently feature a planned extension beyond the end of 2020.