Monday, April 19, 2021 by Chad Swiatecki

Music supporters’ budget proposals seek $20M+ for pandemic recovery

Advocates for Austin’s music community have come forward with a pair of budget proposals urging the city to earmark roughly $20 million in its next budget specifically for music-related purposes to help the creative economy recover from the pandemic.

On Friday the advocacy group Music Makes Austin released its proposed budget priorities for the city’s use of funds from the new American Rescue Plan stimulus package, with $22.9 million in total spending broken up into nine categories.

It asks for $9 million in new spending to help save music venues; increasing the Live Music Fund’s allocation to $3.4 million; providing $3.3 million for creative workers; $3 million for the Music Disaster Relief Fund that was created last year; $1 million for events safety; two equity funds for outdoor music and festivals at $1 million each; $1 million for wellness for music workers; and $250,000 for a new white paper on the state of the music economy.

MMA’s proposal comes shortly after the Music Commission unanimously approved a $20 million budget request for the coming year.

While the commission’s recommendation doesn’t include dollar amounts for specific purposes, it suggests best uses for stimulus and General Fund dollars based around City Council’s recent decision to focus stimulus spending on homelessness relief, child care and after-school programs, workforce development, and food and housing insecurity.

Those suggestions include money for mental health and wellness, music education programs for children, assistance for endangered music venues, career development programs for Austin musicians, and multiple affordable housing options to prevent musicians and related workers from being priced out of the city.

The executive summary of the MMA proposal paints a picture of the city’s trademark industry needing more than a year to return to full activity following widespread vaccinations.

“The lingering effects of Covid will have a negative impact on all facets of the music sector ecosystem through 2022, yet with vaccinations increasing and residents eager to resume some sense of normalcy, there is an expectation that some forms of music and live entertainment will resume over the next few months, especially low-profit/high-value local performances. In order to make recovery symmetrical for our community, we are asking for continued support for musicians, music venues, industry workers, and promoters, as well as funding for health and wellness until the spring of 2022.”

Cody Cowan, president of Music Makes Austin, said music stakeholders see the need to give the city as much direction as possible in how to use federal money to stabilize a music economy that was already fragile before the pandemic hit.

“The American Rescue Plan is moving forward and we’ve been watching as things happen, but now that it has been confirmed and communicated to cities, counties and states what the funding will look like … we recognize we’re approaching the deadline to be involved in these conversations,” he said. “Be at the table or on the menu … it’s time for us to share what we see could happen with that money for the music needs in Austin.”

Music Commission members have been in preliminary talks with city staffers and Council members about the best way to help the local music economy, with the expectation that the city would help local groups generate another $20 million in recovery funds in the subsequent budget year when no further stimulus money is expected.

Anne-Charlotte Patterson, vice chair of the Music Commission, said the similarities in the two budget proposals should increase the chances of approval as the city moves ahead with allocating stimulus dollars.

“The Music Makes Austin budget, a lot of the funds that have been identified also fit under those four areas. We talked about things in a little bit different ways but I think they still fit into the city’s priorities and we’re still like-minded,” she said.

“It’s loud and clear that we need the city’s support for this. We want them to look at how some of the funds can be set aside specifically for musicians. It’s important to the recovery that we aid people to live here, and I see that as a huge investment in the Austin economy because music is a huge driver of tourism here and has attracted a lot of companies that love our culture.”

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Photo by Nash Cook, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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