Nashville Independent Venues Study (NIVS)


Nashville’s independent music venues—widely understood as a core part of the city’s identity—are threatened. Nashville Metro Council requested an inventory of venues to understand better what’s happening, and what can be done about it. This year, Metro Planning Department staff with project partners PennPraxis, VibeLab, and Culture Shift Team have inventoried venues and spoken with community members to better understand the challenges independent venues face.

This project’s core purpose is to better understand the ecosystem of independent music venues (IMVs). In the process, the project will detail the threats Independent music venues face, seek to understand the needs and aspirations of the region’s creative community, and propose policy approaches for preserving and growing Independent Music venues as well as the businesses, neighborhoods, and districts around them.

If you missed the Open House event in May, there are still opportunities to get involved! Please fill out this brief form to receive periodic project updates or share your interest in getting involved. We also welcome you to share the form with family and friends.

As we continue to work through this study, we anticipate publishing our findings in Spring 2024.


Nashville is Music City – an identity steeped in a community of local creators and music spaces. Independent music venues play an outsized role in music ecosystems here and in cities worldwide. They act as incubators for emerging talent, networking, jobs, and community—for recording and live music industries. Nashville’s music scene is expansive, with independent venue spaces hosting local and central talents nationwide, such as bluegrass, rock, blues, indie, Latin, jazz, and more. This ecosystem is enormously unique and must be cared for.

But Nashville’s independent music venues are under pressure from rising costs and rents, neighbourhood change, and the profound effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. These threats disproportionately impact small business owners, independent artists, and especially marginalized communities and communities of color. As long-standing local staples like Arnold’s Country Kitchen and Douglas Corner Cafe close, and independent venues like Mercy Lounge and Exit/In shut their doors after decades of local operation, facing uncertain futures after building sales, there is an urgent need to protect local independent music venues and cultural infrastructure so that Nashville can continue to be a vital and dynamic city for artists, music, and culture.

This project arose from a resolution (RS2021-927) adopted by the Nashville Metro Council in May 2021, which was then developed into a request for proposals issued by Nashville Metro (RFQ 269260: Study – Sustaining Nashville’s Independent Music Venues).

Project Goal

This project’s core purpose is to understand better the ecosystem of independent music venues (IMVs). It will develop a definition of “independent music venue,” classify and inventory venues (of many types) in Nashville Metro and the region, articulate the essential role IMVs play in the music ecosystem, and identify what specific steps are needed to protect them in the long term. In the process, the project will detail the threats they face, seek to understand the needs and aspirations of the region’s creative community, and propose policy approaches for preserving and growing IMVs as well as the businesses, neighbourhoods, and districts around them.

Our Activities

We’ll be accomplishing the above goals by conducting desk research in the winter and spring of 2023, small-group discussions and interviews in the spring and summer of 2023, and creating a report to share findings and outcomes in 2024.  


Are you interested in participating?


Nashville Metro Planning Department is leading the project with input and support provided by Metro Arts Commission, the Metropolitan Historical Commission, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation, and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. Project activities are executed by a consortium of three organizations staffed by nightlife and music professionals, city planners, civic advocates, academics, “night mayors,” and community organizers from Philadelphia, Nashville, Berlin, and Amsterdam with experience working with music and nightlife communities worldwide.

PennPraxis, the applied research, professional practice, and community engagement arm of the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design, and VibeLab, a purpose-driven consultancy supporting cities around the world in the nighttime, nightlife, and cultural industries, have collaborated on cutting-edge research and tools to support nighttime governance in cities around the world, on projects including the Creative Footprint, “Voices of Creatives,” and the Global Nighttime Recovery Plan.

Grounded in the Nashville community is Culture Shift Team a multicultural marketing advertising and DEIAB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Access, and Belonging) consulting agency of leading experts. Culture Shift Team helps organizations better understand and leverage the shifting demographics in the marketplace, while also removing barriers to human potential and performance.

Metro Planning is the Nashville Metro department tasked with providing design guidance, reviews of zoning and subdivision applications, and shaping public policy related to growth, preservation, and development. The Planning Department is committed to proactive, community-based planning founded on public participation, and to the building of liveable, sustainable communities.

Katie Levesque
Project Manager

Michael Fichman
Sr. Research Associate

Diana Raiselis


Lutz Leichsenring
Sr. Consultant

Katie Hanford
Research Assistant

Ellen Neises
Executive Director

Ceriah Hudson
Engagement Consultant

Robert L. Wilson
Sr. Engagement Consultant

Gabrielle Solair

Sofia Fasullo
Research Assistant

Marcela Gómez
Sr. Engagement

Mirik Milan

Amir Salem

The project’s engagement and research activities are supported by Nashville-based community liaisons: musicians, event promoters and cultural advocates whose experience spans community outreach, event production and local music scenes, including country, R&B, and soul. They support the project as session facilitators and engagement liaisons.

-Adrianna Flax, Community Liaison

-Marcus K. Dowling, Community Liaison

-Eric D. Holt, Community Liaison

-Chelsea Moubarak, Community Liaison


Want to get in touch? Please reach out to