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Tennessee Bill That Would Create a Live Music Fund for Indie Venues Passes State Legislature

A bill to create a new statewide live music fund in Tennessee has passed in the state’s Senate and House. It will now head to the desk of Governor Bill Lee, who is expected to sign it into law.

SB2508/HB2712 — composed of identical companion bills carried by Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson and House Majority Whip Johnny Garrett — was introduced as a collaboration between the Music Venue Alliance Nashville, the National Independent Venue Association and the Broadway Entertainment Association. The bill creates the structure of a live music fund that will one day provide grants to live music and performance venues, promoters and performers.

The legislation also defines elements of the live music industry in code for the first time, marking a fundamental step toward directing future support. The fund is set up to be administered by the Tennessee Entertainment Commission under the Department of Economic and Community Development. 

Though the bill does not allocate any government money to the fund during this fiscal year, it does allow it to receive donations and grants from individuals and the private sector. The opportunity for government-appropriated funds remains on the table for future years. Stakeholders will also soon come together to evaluate revenue streams flowing into similar funds in other states and determine if any opportunities exist that might be a good fit for the Tennessee fund.

“We are truly excited by the unanimous and bipartisan support for our independent venues,” said Chris Cobb, board president of the Music Venue Alliance Nashville, in a statement. “It has become increasingly difficult to own, operate, or grow an independent venue in today’s climate, and a fund like this will be a difference maker to ensure that independent venues across Tennessee not only survive, but thrive.”

“The Live Music & Performance Venue Fund creates a massive opportunity for us to protect and preserve Tennessee’s live music industry for years to come,” said Bob Raines, executive director of the Tennessee Entertainment Commission, in a statement. “Independent venues and performers across the great state of Tennessee are the foundation of our complex and vibrant ecosystem and we know their success is directly tied to the vibrancy and growth of our communities across the state.”

While Tennessee is only the second state in the nation to define a live music and performance venue in the state cod, similar funds have been created in cities and states across the United States. Texas provided over 650 micro-grants to individual creatives in 2023 through a similar fund and also provided a grant to the historic Austin, Tex., independent venue Hole in the Wall that enabled it to secure a 20-year lease extension.

“We applaud Leader Johnson and Representative Garrett for their leadership, and thank the entire Tennessee General Assembly for their unwavering support of independent venues, promoters, and the entirelive entertainment sector in Tennessee,” Stephen Parker, executive director of the National Independent Venue Association, said in a statement. “Whether investment to bolster the fund comes from the live community, the private sector, or government, we look forward to rallying support and growing this fund in the years ahead to ensure the preservation of Tennessee’s legendary live music economy.”

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