As Lockdowns Intensify, Spotify Donates $500,000 to Struggling Music Venues

  • Save

  • Save
Asheville, North Carolina’s The Orange Peel, where The Weeknd will play as part of Spotify and NIVA’s 2020 Wrapped initiative. Photo Credit: Spotify/NIVA

Spotify has partnered with the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) to sponsor performances at indie venues across the U.S., donating a total of $500,000 to the NIVA Emergency Relief Fund – which is administered by The Giving Back Fund – in the process.

NIVA and Spotify unveiled their partnership and the half-million-dollar Emergency Relief Fund donation today. The high-profile artists who will play the indie venues – five sets have been announced thus far, and the remaining gigs will be detailed in the coming weeks – were selected based upon the newly released results of Spotify’s annual Wrapped campaign.

To kick off the NIVA- and Spotify-spearheaded initiative, Alicia Keys will perform at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater. Lady Gaga has committed to playing The Ritz Ybor in Tampa, with Childish Gambino set to headline a show at Portland’s The Aladdin.

The Weeknd, who failed to receive a single Grammy nomination despite the fact that his “Blinding Lights” enjoyed the most streams of any track on Spotify in 2020, is booked for Asheville, North Carolina’s The Orange Peel. And London native Jessie Ware, for her part, is preparing to entertain fans and support the cause with a performance at Atlanta’s Center Stage.

Separately, Spotify’s Wrapped findings presented a few other noteworthy listenership stats. Bad Bunny, who made headlines for scoring the biggest Spotify debut of 2020 after participating in a paid promotional campaign, led the pack in total global streams. Drake finished second, to J Balvin in third, Juice WRLD in fourth, and The Weeknd in the fifth-place slot.

Through her last studio album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, released in March of 2019, Billie Eilish garnered the most Spotify streams of any female artist in 2020. The “Bad Guy” singer topped the likes of Taylor Swift (whose surprise Folklore release has achieved massive commercial success), Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa, and the fifth-ranked Halsey, who was also snubbed ahead of 2021’s Grammy Awards.

Lastly, The Weeknd’s After Hours was the second most-streamed album on Spotify in 2020 (behind Bad Bunny’s promoted YHLQMDLG). Tones and I’s “Dance Monkey” received the second-largest number of global plays, ranking just beneath the aforementioned “Blinding Lights.” (As an interesting aside, Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, Bad Bunny, Drake, Ariana Grande, Halsey, and J Balvin alike are signed to Universal Music subsidiaries.)

Spotify and NIVA’s fundraising effort arrives as lockdown restrictions continue to intensify, both domestically and abroad. Live Nation revealed last month that it suffered a 95 percent year-over-year falloff in third-quarter earnings. And in late October, NIVA teamed up with YouTube for a “Save Our Stages” virtual festival, which raised $1.8 million for struggling venues.

4 Responses

  1. Per A.

    Did they donate to the NIVA or the NIVF? One is a non profit created by the other (and it would be concerning to hear that the emergency fund was within the NIVA and not the foundation). And SOS fest did not raise $1.8M, they raised $1.3M since October (according to NIVA’s YouTube profile), which is not much considering the amount talent they had over 3 days, many of which gross that much in a single show.

    • Devin C.

      The Emergency Relief Fund is administered by the Giving Back Fund (Giving Back Fund Inc.), a separate 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. However, the Giving Back Fund takes a percentage of the gross fundraised monies as a fee for use of their service. According to their 2018 990, they took 17.4% of monies raised by Prizeo US LLC from an internet fundraising event. If we use that number as a baseline, and the $1.3M raised through YouTube, we can extrapolate that monies returned/available after that expense (assuming there are no others) would be $1.07M (or $1.49M using the $1.8M figure). That’s also assuming there are no expenses from using YouTube as a channel to collect donations (though that fee may be included in the percentage taken by the Giving Back Fund), cost of talent, etc. Additionally, this number does not include possible revenues from channel monetization, in the event that NIVA monetizes their content and takes a percentage of ad royalties (after possible deductions from youtube, the respective label, talent, etc).
      The $1.8M figure released in a statement by NIVA on October 22, 2020, does not reflect the $1.3M figure currently on YouTube, unless there was a $500,000 contribution by YouTube or another entity not part of the funds raised through YouTube by the event.
      The NIVA is a 501(c)(6), but since it is a trade organization whose main purpose are lobbying efforts, contributions made directly to NIVA are not considered deductible charitable contributions (Publication 526 (2019)). That is why they created NIVF, which is a 501(c)(3) focused on “non-lobbying efforts.” This allows it’s contributions to be deductible. There is overlap within the board between members of NIVA and NIVF. Hal Real is secretary of NIVA and President of NIVF; Tobi Paks is on the DEI Task Force of NIVA and is the VP of NIVF, and Reverend Moose is Executive Director of both.

      • Marc Pollick

        I am the President and CEO of The Giving Back Fund. This information is incorrect. The Giving Back Fund did not take 17.4 % of funds raised for one of our foundation events, Prizeo took a fee for its services that equalled 17.4%. The Giving Back Fund is a community foundation and all of the information on our 990 reflects activities from some 100 or more clients who derive their 501 c 3 status from us. Not a penny of that went to The Giving Back Fund. Our fiscal sponsorship fees are among the lowest in the country and for this critical project with NIVA, we have substantially discounted those fees even further.

  2. Dylan Smith

    Good catch; should have reiterated at the outset that The Giving Back Fund is processing the donations. I’ve updated accordingly.

    And on the NIVA-YouTube Save Our Stages front, I noticed the displayed total of $1.3 million in earnings when writing the piece. (

    The release said $1.8 million, however, and I assumed that the $1.3 million derived from straight donations during the livestreams, with the remaining $500,000 or so coming from merchandise sales.