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Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL) is a coalition advocating for nearly 50 member venues in and around Chicago, all independently owned and operated. They can be found at

In a time characterized by waiting—waiting to leave the confines of our homes, waiting to see our loved ones closer than six feet away, waiting to truly exhale—those of us who have found ourselves estranged from our usual gigs in Chicago’s illustrious independent music scene knew that waiting was simply not an option. In a matter of days following March 12, 2020, COVID-19 splayed across the country, tours were scrapped, venues were shuttered, and income for a majority of music industry workers slipped away like sand through a sieve. As months drifted by, we, like many other industry professionals, found ourselves disillusioned, disenfranchised, and grasping for a life raft. With neither an end to the pandemic in sight, nor sufficient government assistance for the music venue staffers, artists, and touring professionals that power Chicago’s—and the world’s—live music ecosystem, it became clear that the solution would be an inside job.

As a city and as an artist enclave, Chicago was built on a legacy of scrappiness. It can be felt in the disposition of its residents and the sound of the music that colors the city. For the vitality of Chicago’s independent music venues to be wrested in the vigor of its staffers felt all too appropriate. Thus, a small team of Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL) member venue employees began work on the CIVL SAVE Emergency Relief Fund, an effort powered by The Giving Back Fund that will provide micro-grants to fellow Chicago music venue workers and local artists in need, as well as the institutions themselves. And we decided to raise the money by doing what we do best: promoting (virtual) shows, slinging merch, and recruiting the time and talents of creatives we admire.

Aside from being a perfectly apt name, SAVE stands for Staff, Artists, and VEnues. Our team wanted to highlight the fact that the continuous moratorium on live events affects not only the business owners, but also the thousands of performers, staff members, and independent contractors who have lost their livelihoods. It’s easy to underestimate the robust inner workings of an independent venue: the irreplaceable box office, security, production, bar staff, building maintenance, and booking/marketing/ticketing gurus who make the magic happen. Being that we understand each other’s distress firsthand, the primary round of applications are designed by venue staff for venue staff. In order to maintain transparency and equity, we’ve conducted surveys and led a virtual town hall in order to gather input, which has made the CIVL SAVE Emergency Relief Fund truly tailor-made for the collective needs of our extended music family.

Thanks to the support of loyal Chicagoans and far away fans, CIVL has raised invaluable funding thus far. We encourage anyone and everyone who has the means to support the individuals who are responsible for some of your favorite concert memories in one way or another. You may donate directly to the fund at or purchase merchandise designed by local artist Maura Walsh. If you’d like to apply for funding, sign up for CIVL’s e-mail list for more information.

What is CIVL SAVE hoping to “save,” exactly? We hope to save our colleagues from one more unpaid bill, from further financial woes than those that this past year has wrought. To send crucial aid to some of the toughest souls we know, those who embody Chicago’s grit and tenacity, who will continuously forfeit sleep to make an experience unforgettable—because that’s what they do.

It is all these things and more than words can express.

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