Music Industry Rally Called for Monday at City Hall

Advocates turn up the volume for dedicated music funding

Two music advocacy groups, Austin Texas Musicians and the recently minted Amplified Sound Coalition, are calling for musicians, industry workers, venue operators, and fans to wear black and come together to demand dedicated music funding at a second Come & Save It rally on Monday, Sept. 28, 11am, at City Hall.

A promotional image for Monday’s Come & Save It rally at City Hall. (Courtesy of Austin Texas Musicians)

Ahead of Thursday’s City Council meeting, where elected representative will once again consider the Saves Resolution (Item 52), the coalition urges the council to: “Create a dedicated Music Venue Preservation Fund ($10M) to save Austin music venues” and “Select a qualified grant administrator that understands our community, and has prior grant administration experience, to administer funds with complete transparency.”

Advocates are now dispensing with diplomacy. Recent animation posted by Austin Texas Musicians illustrates the names of recently shuttered venues on a tombstone next to a grim reaper, who’s sickle reads “City Council.”

Via the City Council agenda, Item 52 currently reads:

“Approve an ordinance amending certain Fiscal Year 2020-2021 department budgets to fund the Save Austin’s Vital Economic Sectors (SAVES) Fund to support COVID-19 emergency relief as follows: the Financial Services Department Capital Budget (Ordinance No. 20200812-001) to transfer out and appropriate $6,000,000 to the General Fund Emergency Reserve Fund; and the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Building Services Department Capital Budget (Ordinance No. 20200812-001) to transfer out and appropriate $500,000 to the General Fund Emergency Reserve Fund; the Pay for Success Reserve Fund Operating Budget (Ordinance No. 20200812-001) to transfer out and appropriate $4,800,000 to the General Fund Emergency Reserve Fund; and the Austin Transportation Department Mobility Fund Operating Budget (Ordinance No. 20200812-001) to transfer out and appropriate $3,700,000 to the General Fund Emergency Reserve Fund; and declaring an emergency.”

Austin Texas Musicians President Nakia Reynoso points out the continued disconnect between the city trumpeting Austin’s musician culture without actually supporting it.

“Council has already posted this morning the beginning of what this is going to look like,” he said when reached today. “They’ve already started identifying buckets of money. It’s not going to be enough, but it’s going to be something. After that, what has to happen is musicians, venues, talent buyers, all these other folks in town, they have to draw the line in the sand – especially musicians – and say, ‘We’re not going to keep letting you use us in this way.

“We are the most valuable asset to the city.’”

Those following the city government’s interactions with the homegrown music ecosystem know there’s been a long, maddening timeline of civic lip service, unfulfilled promises, and near total inaction.

As the pandemic continues to keep Austin’s vaunted music clubs shut down – with the exception of a handful operating under a Food & Beverage TABC designation – frustration in the scene continues mount with the city’s response. As Chronicle music news columnist Rachel Rascoe wrote extensively about in this week’s edition of “Faster Than Sound,” business grants for venues have proved far from sustainable and the city has faced heavy criticism for having the Better Business Bureau administer relief payouts, on which they took $1.14 million in administrative fees. Those following the city’s interactions with the homegrown music ecosystem know there’s been a long, maddening timeline of civic lip service, unfulfilled promises, and near total inaction.

Take for example, Mayor Steve Adler’s largely unfulfilled 2016 music stimulus package known as the Omnibus.

Considering all that, advocates are now dispensing with diplomacy. Recent animation posted by Austin Texas Musicians illustrated the names of recently shuttered venues on a tombstone next to a grim reaper, who’s sickle reads “City Council.” Kevin Russell, frontman of Shinyribs and, formerly the Gourds, is one of three musicians slated to speak at Monday’s Come & Save It rally.

“The message is: we need money now,” he said Saturday. “The allocations need to be transparently done. Make it clear and make the eligibility simple and not complicated. That was the problem with the Better Business Bureau [administrated grants]: some clubs got money and some didn’t, and no one understood the eligibility.

“We know who needs it. Give some damn money to these venues to get them through the next few months. It’s a crucial moment.

“It can’t be promised and then later on they do a study. No, no, no. You know you needs it.

“Give it to them now.”

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