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Covid relief for musicians expected by December, with Live Music Fund taking shape

Thursday, October 7, 2021 by Chad Swiatecki

Local musicians impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic are expected to receive federal relief funds by December, thanks to alterations to a pair of music funding programs recommended by the Music Commission.

As of last month, city staffers had been concerned that the grants of $1,000-$2,000 could be delayed into the new year because the Covid relief program was to be administered by a third-party administrator that would also oversee the new Live Music Fund.

Both programs were essentially finalized through the summer, with staff expecting the third-party administrator to be selected this fall. But last month the Music Commission opted to put more time and scrutiny into the creation of the Live Music Fund, requiring the two to be split and overseen separately despite the wishes of the city’s purchasing department to keep them tied together and require only a single bidding process for the outside administrator.

The Music Commission voted Monday on a set of revised recommendations for applicants for the Live Music Fund, which has $2.3 million available and is being largely directed toward musicians and music professionals from traditionally marginalized minority groups. The recommendations include guidelines for selecting the outside administrator that will evaluate the applicants competing for up to $10,000 to fund new events and concerts around the city.

A working group formed specifically for the Live Music Fund asked for a public pre-conference with organizations looking to administer the fund, as well as a summary of each group’s bid proposal for the public to review. The group wants the selected administrator to commit to evaluating applicants based on criteria selected by the commission, with a possible extension of the one-year contract coming back to the commission for review ahead of time.

The group wants the application for the grants to have more detailed questions about connections to minority and underserved groups. It also wants to know how applicants will gauge the success of the event, and how recipients plan to foster new collaboration and opportunities for equity groups.

Chair Jonathan “Chaka” Mahone said the more detailed questions will ensure authenticity in the mission of applicants related toward equity goals. With the fund moving toward launch next year, he said there will be more opportunities for artists and producers to come forward with new ideas.

“There are a lot of things missing in this music scene and this fund will start to plant seeds for things that have been needed for a long time. It will create culture, encourage new ideas, and that’s really what this city needs,” he said. “We’ve been doing things a certain way for a long time and funding music hasn’t really been in the hands of musicians directly. It’s gone to venues and organizations and nonprofits, but this is the opportunity for musicians out there to take the lead with their creativity.”

Commissioner Nagavalli Medicharla said the commission hopes to make a mark with the new program while also realizing that at an average amount of $7,500, the $2.3 million fund will have an impact on at most 15 percent of the city’s estimated 8,000 working musicians.

“We really have to keep that in perspective as to what this fund is going to cover. The idea right now is just see how much can we do and can we get to a substantial amount of those musicians,” she said.

“It is important to look at how to maximize the benefit out of these funds, and also be open to the idea that this can evolve over the years. The criteria is not set in stone in a way that it cannot evolve, especially if it goes to a third party and they can find ways to grow the fund.”

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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