Nashville Metro Council Approves Legislation to Give Much-Needed Support to Independent Music Venues and Community

As independent venues steadily vanish due to redevelopment and pandemic strain, a new study will determine how city can best preserve and support venues.

With Metro Council’s overwhelming approval last night of RS2022-1494, which funds a study to assist independent music venues in recovering from the impacts of the pandemic as well as other chronic and acute stresses; and RS2022-1497, which supports efforts to revive the Music City Music Council into a sustainable and effective initiative, the Music Venue Alliance Nashville (MVAN) celebrates the passages as positive steps for Nashville’s independent music community. Support at the city level signals recognition by city leaders that the dramatic and rapid loss of several iconic venues—the very backbone of Music City—must be addressed and acted on.

A toxic mix of inequitable redevelopment coupled with a multi-year pandemic bred a difficult, if not impossible, environment for independent music venues to survive, much less thrive. In 2022 alone, treasured and historically significant venues are at immediate risk of closure, including Cannery Ballroom, Exit/In, Mercy Lounge, and High Watt.

For MVAN, the venue advocacy group founded in 2020 by Chris Cobb (Exit/In), Todd Ohlhauser (Mercy Lounge) and Ron Brice (3rd & Lindsley), the passage of these resolutions provides a way forward. “Last night, our elected officials validated the importance of Nashville’s creative working class, small businesses, and independent venues, who make our amazing music culture, by unanimously passing this legislation.” says Chris Cobb, president of MVAN. “I look forward to continuing to work together for an authentic and equitable Music City.”

With the passage of RS2021-927, sponsored by Council member Jeff Syracuse and co-sponsored by Council members Joy Styles, Emily Benedict, Nancy VanReece and Brandon Taylor, the Council requests the Metropolitan Planning Department, Metro Arts Commission: Nashville Office of Arts & Culture, Metropolitan Historical Commission, the Nashville.

Convention and Visitors Corporation, and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce to partner together to take an inventory of every music venue in Nashville to better inform the Metropolitan Government as to how best to preserve, sustain, and support these venues for the decades to come.

The Music City Music Council legislation, RS2022-1497, sponsored by Council member Jeff Syracuse and co-sponsored by Council members Erin Evans and Burkley Allen, will not only focus on its original mission of attracting events to the city and more; but now will work on much-needed policies that help Nashville’s working class creatives and small businesses. Council member Jeff Syracuse views the resolutions’ approvals as a cultural and (ultimately) economic victory for Nashville.

“The pandemic exacerbated challenges our working creative community were already facing because of our rapid growth and development. We can’t allow this city to become a victim of its own success. We need to ensure every aspect of our music ecosystem is properly supported. This robust study of our local venues will find ways to not just preserve and support the ones we have, but the ones of the future as well as this is a critical small business sector of our economy and culture,” says Jeff Syracuse, District 15 Nashville Metro Council Member. “This study of our venues is one such initiative that our Music City Music Council should be undertaking, but it never achieved sustainability. RS2022-1497 codifies my efforts over the past few years to bring talent and resources together and ensure we remain a global capital of music. It will take completion of a robust strategic planning effort backed up with action to ensure it is sustained and will make Nashville the most attractive city in the world for anyone engaged in any kind of music, film and entertainment.”

Metro Council received numerous letters of support for the passage of both resolutions from organizations including MVAN, National Independent Venue Association, Musicians for a Smoke-Free Tennessee, New Nashville Live, People Supporting Artists, Band Ambassador Group; and individual venue owners including Adam Charney of Rudy’s Jazz Room. MVAN’s upcoming benefit concert, Nashville Helping Nashville, scheduled Saturday, May 28 at East Park, will raise funds and awareness for the public of the dire threats facing independent venues. The concert, a Neil Young tribute, will feature several special guests throughout the evening, including Lucinda Williams, Aaron Lee Tasjan, and Lilly Winwood, among others.

MVAN is a close-knit organization of passionate and fiercely independent music venue owners and operators who are committed to retaining and nurturing the fragile, yet complex ecosystem of every individual aspect of our famous music scene in Nashville. MVAN seeks to enlighten, educate and heighten awareness of what it means to be truly independent, and in this mission of advocacy and renewed appreciation hope to ensure many more decades of passion-fueled small business success and prosperity. Founded in 2020, MVAN represents more than 15 independent music venues in Nashville.

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