AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Economic Development Department’s Music and Entertainment Division has been working with the Music Commission to create the Live Music Fund, a resource that aims to provide financial aid for musicians and live music promoters.
The Live Music Fund was first established by the City of Austin in September 2019. The fund was created in response to the pilot Live Music Fund Event Program. With the goal to prioritize “the core principals of Preservation, Innovation, and Elevation & Collaboration (PIE).”
In order to qualify, musicians have to live in Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop or Caldwell counties and have proof they’ve been regularly performing for the last two years, have six released recordings or six music videos. Those are just some of the eligibility requirements.
However, there’s a hold-up on getting the $3 million out to artists and promoters in need. Just last week on May 2, during a Music Commission meeting, the city cited staffing shortages as one of the reasons for the delay.
“What makes Austin so unique and special is our live music scene,” said Vanessa Fuentes, Austin City Councilwoman for District 2. “So when there are huge impacts to our to the industry, that is something that we have to take note of.”
A solution is finding a third-party contractor to handle the Live Music Fund’s rollout. The city hopes to find someone by the end of the year, so they can get the money out to musicians by next summer.
“Our musicians have been so hard hit this pandemic and part of what makes Austin, Austin is our live music scene, so having that news of knowing that there was going to be a delay in getting this critical funding out was certainly pretty disappointing,” Fuentes said.
On Wednesday, the nonprofit Health Alliance for Austin Musicians or HAAM met with the city’s Public Health Committee in an effort to develop a more permanent funding source through the city.
The nonprofit helps provide musicians with access to health care. Each year, they help nearly 3,000 musicians.
Currently, HAAM is facing a close to $800,000 funding gap, and the group is calling on the city for help because, without it, organization leaders said it’ll have a difficult time addressing musicians’ needs.
“We are really hoping to partner more regularly with the city on providing health care access, affordable health care access for Austin’s musicians because what we know is that when you have a musician who is contemplating whether or not they should do music full time, whether or not they’re going to be able to provide for their family as a musician, one of the things that really holds them back is whether or not they’re a family, and they will have health insurance, and whether or not they would lose their benefits,” explained Rachel Blair, HAAM’s chief operating officer.
Since the pandemic, those at HAAM said they’ve had to dip into the nonprofit’s reserves — hundreds of thousands of dollars — so they’re hoping the city can help chip in a little more.
“Austin musicians are an endangered species,” Blair said. “If we don’t act now with a variety of different interventions like funding HAAM, like launching the Live Music Fund, we are in danger of losing this incredible resource that we all love and adore in music.”