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Latino groups ask Music Commission to support creation of Latino music fund

Monday, August 10, 2020 by Chad Swiatecki

A new coalition is pushing the Music Commission to support allocating some of the city’s funds for live music to Latino musicians.

Members of the Latin Music Coalition Austin spoke at last week’s meeting of the Music Commission to highlight a proposal that calls for $1.5 million from the recently created Live Music Fund to be directed toward a separate Latino Music Fund that would address career development, venues and lack of resources for events. The proposal also asks for $2 million of a $12 million bond package for cultural spaces, which was approved in 2018, to be used to create a Latino music hub at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.

“Mexican-American and Latin music is struggling to appeal to Austin’s new wave of potential audiences,” the proposal reads. “The Live Music Fund offers an avenue for Latino music to attract more diverse audiences, donors, employees, and other key stakeholders if they want to achieve programmatic, financial and operational success in the very near future.”

The request follows a recent proposal from Music Commissioner Jonathan “Chaka” Mahone to create a Black Music Fund with $750,000.

The commission has supported that initiative, though it is still under discussion whether the city should provide those funds from the Hotel Occupancy Tax, which is the source for the Live Music Fund, or some other source that is less volatile because of the current drop in hotel bookings caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Also related to the creative spaces bond money, local activist Harold McMillan recently addressed the commission to push for the creation of a Black music hub in the East Austin area known as Block 18.

The Latino music proposal was the product of a gathering of interested groups and community members at the beginning of the month at the MACC. The city’s Asian American community is expected to submit a similar funding and venue request to the commission by the end of the month.

Alex Vallejo, an organizer of LMCA, said Latin musicians represent the culture of many of Austin’s longest-established communities but lack the resources to remain viable to larger audiences.

“The goal of this Latin music coalition will be to create opportunities and access for Latin American artists and others in the music industry to participate fully in Austin’s music ecosystem. As of today there’s still not a signature Latin music venue or radio station that nurtures Latin global talent or a destination-specific Latin music festival,” he said.

“Our goal would be to continue nurturing those up-and-coming artists that need an extra push to break out of Austin, but we also want to be cognizant of always recognizing the new and young Latin talent that will ensure that Latin music is always what makes Austin a cool city.”

A working group charged with making recommendations for how to use the Live Music Fund is expected to present its findings in the coming weeks.

Music Commissioner Gavin Garcia, who has led groups involved with music equity in recent years, told the Austin Monitor the commission should put together a plan for using the Live Music Fund equitably before the city takes proposals or requests for that money. He also said the process for allocating bond funding needs to have an equity component.

“This will bring up the Black community, Latino community and Asian American community and raise their profile. The bigger issue … can be taken up holistically by the Music Commission but also from the private sector perspective of community organizing that is taking place right now,” he said. “I don’t believe we dig into the Live Music Fund quite yet until we have an equitable overlay for the industry.”

Vallejo also said the venue funding is the most urgent piece of his group’s proposal because the city is approaching a request for proposals that will eventually lead to property acquisition and partnerships with groups interested in operating those spaces.

“What’s in front of us right now is the music hub and the $2 million request from the bond,” he said via text. “The Latin music fund is more of a longer discussion that we’re organizing now.”

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