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Music Commission opts to reevaluate Live Music Fund after affirming diversity goals

Friday, November 5, 2021 by Chad Swiatecki

The Music Commission will gather more community feedback on the guidelines for the city’s $2.3 million Live Music Fund, but agreed Monday that diversity and inclusion will be one of its baseline goals.

The commission unanimously approved three resolutions related to the fund, which is funded by hotel tax revenues, thanks to a 2019 City Council vote. The first vote approved the PIE concept – preservation, inclusion, elevation and collaboration – as the primary goal of the fund, while a second gives the commission the latitude to discuss with music economy stakeholders how the funds should be used, with discussion likely to continue at next month’s meeting.

A working group was also formed to let commissioners discuss the process of possibly restructuring the program, which has been proposed as a source of $5,000 and $10,000 grants given to musicians and promoters to create live events at clubs and other venues around the city.

That structure had been largely agreed upon by commissioners and others in the community for much of the past year, but came under scrutiny at a Council work session when Mayor Steve Adler said the proposed structure wasn’t business-focused and may need to be reworked.

Commissioner Jonathan “Chaka” Mahone, who helped shape the PIE concept and the grant structure, expressed his frustration over alternative program structures recently put forward by advocacy groups Music Moves Austin and EQ Austin.

“We talked about this for a year as a commission, and since these guidelines were proposed initially by me in October after discussions with the systemic racism working group, where we all thought these were great … these were good ideas for our industry until the last meeting,” he said.

“During that entire year, folks that I talked with after meeting, there was never a statement of disagreement.”

The Music Moves Austin proposal sought to make live music venues possible recipients of some of the money from the Live Music Fund, but that idea was roundly criticized during public comment as well as by some commissioners.

“Music Moves Austin as a whole as well as some including people that are on this board went and lobbied behind the Music Commission to talk to Mayor Adler and congressmen and women to get their support for what we’re basically calling a vertical integration of the Live Music Fund, move it out of the Economic Development Department and into the new economic development corporation,” Commissioner Scott Strickland said. “There’s probably a lot of influence that they can then have with staff and being able to recommend the people able to get on boards.

“No one is disagreeing we need to grow the fund, but it needs to be from the bottom up and middle out, and not from the top down.”

Commissioner Nagavalli Medicharla said the commission needs to look at how to make the program available to workers in the recording industry and other non-live areas of the city’s music economy.

“It is important to solidify and strengthen all different stakeholders within this music economy, and that’s why I bring the idea of putting in producers and recording studios,” she said. “People take different paths here to build a career, and with the Live Music Fund … we’ll work with (diversity, equity and inclusion) as one of its core principles with the big picture in mind that these are all mutually compatible goals.”

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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