Monday, October 11, 2021 by Chad Swiatecki

Cultural trust RFP expected as new EDC considers handling Live Music Fund

The city’s new economic development corporation could issue its first call for development partners next month, with the goal of preserving or creating spaces that can be used by local musicians and arts groups that are increasingly being displaced.

At last week’s Music Commission meeting, Emmett Beliveau, a board member for the EDC, said the first request for proposals for the city’s long-planned cultural trust will go out by the end of November at the latest. That process will move forward while the body, which currently has one employee and is being largely run by Economic Development Department staff, conducts a search for its first CEO.

Beliveau, who also serves as chief operating officer of Austin-based concert promoter C3 Presents, said the board will discuss the recent request by the Music Commission to have the EDC administer the $2.3 million Live Music Fund program as one of its first projects. Commission members in recent talks have expressed hope that the EDC could evaluate applications and select recipients of the $5,000 and $10,000 grants at a lower cost than other outside administrators, freeing up more money for grants.

Beliveau said development areas around the South Central Waterfront district and connected to Huston-Tillotson University present attractive opportunities to install creative spaces that the city would play a part in brokering. He said the Live Music Fund and the chance to increase its funding via private giving would let the EDC log some “quick wins” on behalf of the music community.

“We have had a preliminary discussion to say we need to look at this,” he said, “and have asked our staff to present us some information about the fund, timelines, potential costs and the feasibility of whether it makes sense for the development corporation with a staff of one to take on at this time.”

Commissioner Scott Strickland said the fund, which was approved by City Council in late 2019, should be made less reliant on revenue from the city’s Hotel Occupancy Tax because of the expected long-term stagnation in hotel business because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I see the Live Music Fund as this living, breathing thing that is going to evolve over time and it seems like it would be a good idea, eventually, for the fund to build up a pool where it’s not being dependent on (hotel) taxes,” he said. “We’ve seen over the last year that we’re not going to be able to depend on those.”

Strickland also said that, while the EDC will operate as an independent body with broad direction provided annually by Council, he hopes it will work closely with EDD if it opts to take over administration of the Live Music Fund.

Commissioner Patrice Pike told Beliveau it will be important for the EDC to maintain a transparent relationship with the community and understand the need to address equity concerns for musicians and artists from marginalized communities.

“The Live Music Fund has been talked about for a really long time, and there’s a lot of anxiety about who is going to distribute this and manage it. A big part of our role is to foster public trust and to be a bridge for communication for all of the folks in our districts,” she said.

“I would like to hear from the EDC about ways we can foster that public trust because it seemed like in the very beginning people were like, what the heck is this EDC, and it’s easy to paint a monster face on something you don’t know.”

Photo by Cordyceps-Zombie, CC BY-SA 4.0.

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Austin Music Commission: The Austin Music Commission guides city practices on music development issues, including the SxSW music festival.

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