Council votes clear path for April rollout of Live Music Fund
Monday, February 13, 2023 by Chad Swiatecki
The city will begin taking applications for the Live Music Fund in April, after City Council approved two resolutions Thursday clearing the way for the awarding of grants to musicians and event promoters. The two items approved on consent were not considered controversial. They provide an additional $525,000 to the program’s nearly $4 million budget, much of which will be set aside to cover administrative fees paid to the Long Center for the Performing Arts, which was approved to oversee the program as well as related Cultural Arts programs.
Approval of the third-party administrator was a bureaucratic step that delayed the rollout of the Live Music Fund, which was first created by Council in 2019 when it allowed the use of a pool of Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue to provide an economic boost to the local music economy. In the intervening years, the Music Commission and the city’s Music and Entertainment Division worked out the goals for the grants that will range from $5,000 to $10,000. With the Economic Development Department currently experiencing a staffing shortage, the fund will require outside help to handle the application and evaluation process.
City staff explained the finer points of the two Council resolutions at Monday’s meeting of the Music Commission.
The approval of the Long Center provides a five-year window for the organization to handle a variety of Cultural Arts programs with cumulative budgets totaling $100 million and total administrative fees not to exceed $4.475 million. The modest budget increase to the inaugural Live Music Fund was possible because of recent hotel tax collections that beat city forecasts, with the extra money covering this year’s administrative fee and a $100,000 spend for a Visit Austin program that markets local music to tourists.
Erica Shamaly, manager of the Music and Entertainment Division, said if the Long Center’s fees come in lower than the allocated limit the extra money will be used for additional grants in this year’s program. She said with hotel tax collections showing a consistent rebound after the Covid-19 pandemic, there is almost certain to be a larger budget for the Live Music Fund in the next budget year when music venues will also be eligible to apply for awards.
“The goal is to have as much money in the bank as possible to really expand the program, to keep this budget intact and add some additional budget for venues while leaving some wiggle room in the bank so we’re always having a good cushion,” she said. “My goal is to have the most robust list of eligible applicants that could be awarded so we can also tell the Council and mayor that we have a list of this amount of successful applications equaling X amount of money over what we have budgeted, so we can explain the need and we’re able to fund that the next time.”
The commission took two votes to ask Council to approve both resolutions.
Chair Anne-Charlotte Patterson said she appreciates the conservative approach the city is taking with the initial rollout of the Live Music Fund, but that the strong performance of the local hotel industry funding the grants should allow for more aggressive budgeting in future years so more musicians receive an economic boost from the city.
“I know there have been some lessons learned in Cultural Arts about spending everything down … but at the same time, hotel rooms are like $800 at the Four Seasons. The initial part of the program is independent promoters and musicians where we don’t need as much funding out there, but once we add in venues there will be a greater need for funding.”
Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.
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