Nashville Independent Venues Study (NIVS)


Nashville’s independent music venues—widely understood as a core part of the city’s identity—are threatened. In May 2021, Nashville Metro Council adopted a resolution that would direct an inventory of venues to better understand the challenges that venues are facing, and recommendations for action. In 2023-24, 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 was to better understand the ecosystem of independent music venues (IMVs). In the process, the project detailed the threats Independent music venues face, sought to understand the needs and aspirations of the region’s creative community, and proposed policy approaches for preserving and growing Independent Music venues as well as the businesses, neighborhoods, and districts around them.

The study will be published in July 2024. Pre-register below to receive a digital copy as soon as it’s available:


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. 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).

Study Activities

The study involved 39 engagement sessions from spring to early fall 2023, including both virtual and in-person meetings, and employed qualitative and quantitative research methods to:

  • Inventory and classify IMVs.
  • Understand the needs of the region’s creative community.
  • Develop policy approaches to preserve and grow IMVs within a healthy and thriving music ecosystem.


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.

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.

Project Lead and Senior Researcher, PennPraxis: Michael Fichman

Project Managers, PennPraxis: Katie Levesque and Larissa Whitney

Research Assistants, PennPraxis: Katie Hanford and Sofia Fasullo

Executive Director, PennPraxis: Ellen Neises

Senior Consultants, VibeLab: Mirik Milan and Lutz Leichsenring

Research and Report Lead, VibeLab: Diana Raiselis

Research and Report Assistants, VibeLab: Maarten van Brederode, Amir Alexander Salem, Tereza Patočková, Ali Wagner

Report Editor, VibeLab: Richard Foster

Report Art Director, VibeLab: Thamar Luthart

Report Designer, VibeLab: Jack Waghorn

Report Photography: Chuck Adams

Senior Engagement Consultants, Culture Shift Team: Marcela Gómez, Robert L. Wilson, Ann Gillespie

Engagement Consultants, Culture Shift Team: Gabrielle Solair, Ceriah Hudson, Paola Serrano, Pilar Arrieta

Community Liaison and Facilitator: Marcus K. Dowling

Community Liaison, Facilitator, Writer, Editor: Eric D. Holt

Community Liaison and Facilitator: Chelsea Moubarak

Community Liaison: Adrianna Flax

Community Liaison and Facilitator: Viiaan

Open House Discussion Recorders: Jamea Kollie, Logyn Rylander, Briana Thomas


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