Stephen Parker
Executive Director
National Independent Venue Association

It may be no coincidence that Stephen Parker’s passion for live music and advocacy would lead to big things.

“Live music and performance have existed in our nation since its founding, but it has only been in the last three years that this sector has finally made inroads into government at any level,” said Parker, named executive director at the National Independent Venue Association in January.

He’s alluding to the formation of NIVA, which took shape as the COVID-19 shutdown brought the live events industry to a halt. With a pronounced need to band together, the hundreds of NIVA members weathered the storm and secured nearly $16 billion in federal funding for the cause of reopening their venues. Over the past three years, NIVA has grown into a force for good, with Parker in many ways at the helm of its next phase.

“The most exciting thing in live entertainment is that venues and festivals are now empowered with a national voice,” says Parker, who at age 20 became the youngest gubernatorial appointee in then-Governor (now U.S. Senator) Tim Kaine’s administration. He has 15 years of experience with state governors, including two in Virginia, as well as with the National Governors Association.

“They used that voice to save the live entertainment industry. Now, they will use it to build a more robust music, comedy, and arts ecosystem nationally and in communities across the country.”

With the NIVA members scattered throughout the country, staunchly independent in nature and with different needs and wants, Parker’s political experience and skills are a much-needed bridge to government and as a figurehead for the organization’s efforts.

“The advantage I bring to the live entertainment industry is that I have seen what can happen when a sector unites with a collective voice to drive change that better serves the people in their ecosystem,” said Parker, who grew up in a small town in Virginia with humble roots. “I hope to position NIVA as live entertainment’s chamber of commerce at the national, state, and community levels. Thanks to our incredible founders, we are set to be the national voice that can create a more sustainable industry for artists, fans, and professionals who make live performance possible.”