City Plans for Larger Live Music Fund Grants

Applications for the 2024 city program to open "very soon"

Music fans at Hotel Vegas in March 2022 (Photo by John Anderson)

The Economic Development Department continues to tweak requirements for the next edition of the Austin Live Music Fund. Music & Entertainment Division Manager Erica Shamaly revealed further changes to the program at the Music Commission’s April meeting Monday night.

Musician and commission member Scott Strickland previously voiced concerns that increasing grant amounts for professional musicians and independent promoters from $5,000 or $10,000 to $15,000 or $30,000 would increase competition and ultimately benefit fewer people. On Monday, Shamaly doubled down on the need to offer bigger awards. “This needs to be a more substantial investment so that we can move the needle for folks to really get their careers to grow,” she said, referencing expensive projects like recording music and marketing.

If the fund institutes those higher amounts, Shamaly said that starting in fiscal year 2025, awardees would not be allowed to apply for the Austin Live Music Fund two years in a row. However, she said the EDD would consider disbursing the grants over 24 months to ensure the money lasts.

Last year, applications for the Live Music Fund opened in April. When asked by Commissioner Strickland how close the EDD was to opening this year’s applications, Shamaly said, “very soon.”

In February, organizers changed course from requiring Live Music Fund applicants to specify a certain project they would use funds for to providing a list of all eligible expenses. One of those expenses includes touring, but in last night’s meeting, Shamaly clarified that funds could not be put toward travel expenses. Instead, she listed the following as eligible touring-related costs:

  • • Rehearsal fees
  • • Marketing and promotions
  • • Merchandise transport
  • • Management, artist, and crew fees
  • • Equipment and transport rentals
  • • Administrative advancement
  • • Tour-related shipping

“We can’t use HOT funds to pay for those travel expenses or those hotels outside of Texas – just wouldn’t be right,” she said, referencing the locally collected Hotel Occupancy Tax that funds the program. Also not eligible for Live Music Fund financing: food and hospitality expenses, and fundraisers and benefits – including the many concerts thrown in support of HAAM and the SIMS Foundation.

Stressing the Live Music Fund’s purpose, to bolster local tourism, Shamaly said all awardees will be required to undergo training about how to best promote their music careers. Even if artists decide to use their grants to fund long-running recording projects rather than public-facing events, “You can’t go into a cave for two years,” Shamaly said. “You have to keep engaging in order to not only stay connected with your current fans but to build your fanbase.”

At the end of last night’s meeting, Chair Nagavalli Medicharla, Vice Chair Anne-Charlotte Patterson, and Parliamentarian Oren Rosenthal were all elected to new one-year terms as Music Commission officers. Strickland was elected secretary, filling a previously empty role.

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Live Music Fund, Austin Music Commission, Economic Development Department, Music & Entertainment Division, Erica Shamaly, Scott Strickland, Nagavalli Medicharla

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