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Long Center makes sole bid to manage city’s Live Music Fund

Tuesday, October 11, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

The Long Center for the Performing Arts appears almost certain to be named as the organization that will handle the application process and payments for recipients of grants from the city’s long-awaited Live Music Fund.

The fine arts center was the sole applicant for the third-party administrator contract, which was handled via a request for qualifications process only open to organizations that have previously performed equivalent services for the city. The update on the process was given at last week’s Music Commission meeting, with City Council expected to review the contract at its Nov. 17 meeting.

If approved, the Long Center will be in charge of a fund of roughly $3 million in Hotel Occupancy Tax revenues accrued since late 2019, when Council approved an ordinance change directing some of the hotel tax toward local live music without reducing the portion used for cultural arts or historic preservation. The initial batch of grants will be awarded in $5,000 to $10,000 increments to local musicians and event promoters who submit proposals for consideration.

Executives from the Long Center revealed plans last year to create a separate nonprofit entity within the organization that would help local arts groups and performers handle the administrative tasks related to grants and contracts funded with public dollars.

Music Commission members asked staff from the Economic Development Department when they could see the complete list of other organizations that were approached about participating in the process, along with some of the financial and operational considerations involved. Staff said that information would become publicly available two weeks prior to the Nov. 17 Council meeting.

Staffers also delivered an update on hotel tax collections in recent months, revealing that the consistent increase in tourism is helping the local hotel industry continue its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

With future budget years suggesting the Live Music Fund could have more funds available, Chair Anne-Charlotte Patterson said the commission will need to examine how the first batch of grants are distributed and used to make sure future recipients continue to see the positive economic effects.

“It’s a really good idea to keep some things in reserve, but at the same time I want to be able to spend this on the community and get out as much as we can in a prudent way,” she said. “I’m not saying it needs to be any specific number because we haven’t yet seen how this program is going to work out. But after we have implementation and can study how the money was spent we can make a recommendation on that.”

Sylnovia Holt-Rabb, director of EDD, said the commissioners’ decision to include music venues as possible recipients of grant funds in future years will change how the money is allocated even if hotel tax receipts continue to increase.

“As you may recall, you guys approved in year two adding venues and so for consideration of (fiscal year) 24 we will probably bring back a higher proposal because you will be expanding the pool,” she said. “Keeping (fiscal year) 25 in mind, what you don’t want to do is have one number then you go up and then have to bring the number back down in the following year. So we’re going to be prudent so that we can keep some level funding going forward.”

Outside of the Live Music Fund, Music and Entertainment Division manager Erica Shamaly said there are plans to double (to $100,000) the amount of hotel tax dollars used for digital marketing campaigns for local musicians and concerts. Shamaly said the increase came with direction from Council to have the campaign result in direct ticket and other sales for artists.

“We got direction from Council that we want to see more revenue generation for the venues and the musicians.”

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