COVID-19 Music Relief
Texas groups drum up support for struggling musicians during COVID-19
Millions are out of work, and the Texas music industry is especially reeling, with no end in sight to venue closures. Thankfully, some hope is on the way for thousands of out-of-work musicians.
Statewide, several organizations are working overtime to raise funds to support the many players that comprise local music scenes, so vital to the cities they call home.
Dozens of different charitable efforts popped up in the wake of mass show and venue cancellations. The Texas Music Office, one of the major music organizations in the Lone Star State backed by Governor Greg Abbott, has been collecting the various fundraising and support efforts available to artists, including information on federally and state-backed programs. That includes small business loans through the U.S. CARES Act.
In Dallas, the Artist Relief Fund by Creating Our Future, a group of artists and arts advocates, are raising money to support those affected by closures and lost income. Those in the city can apply via the organization's online form.
Hear Fort Worth, which set up its efforts through United Way of Tarrant County, jumped into action almost immediately with the Creative Industry Relief Fund. Artists who apply are eligible for a one-time $300 grant. Not coincidentally, the idea for the fund came from another successful initiative, the Fort Worth Artist and Service Worker Relief Fund, a GoFundMe donation campaign organized by local musician Rachel Gollay.
“With gig after gig getting canceled, livelihoods are at stake,” Gollay wrote in a statement. “Empty bars, restaurants and venues mean meager funds to take home at the end of the night and little to nothing left to pay the bills. All donations will be equitably divided and transferred among those who request assistance.”
A virtual concert organized through Billy Bob's Texas on April 1 helped raise money for the fund. Total community support had reached $20,000 with 83 individual grants by early April. The fund will stay open as long as donations continue to come in, organizers say.
In Houston, a husband and wife team — talent buyer Mark C. Austin and marketing and public relations professional Rachel Austin — launched the Houston Music Foundation, partnering with nonprofit organization Artists for Artists to provide direct relief to Houston-based musicians. Musicians facing financial hardship can apply for a one-time grant of $500 to pay for bills and living expenses.
Within the first week of announcing, more than 500 artists applied for grants and donations amounted to over $20,000. To apply, artists that reside in Harris County are asked to visit houstonmusicfoundation.org.
“Our goal is to get quick cash into artists’ hands,” Mark C. Austin says. “As an artist manager, as a guy that books hundreds of bands, I’m familiar with the economic set-up with musicians. I’m too familiar with how much $500 means to a working musician — after one month, two months, it starts getting real.”
“I’m a mother, I have three boys, and just hearing some of the stories that people can’t buy groceries for their family and pay rent,” Rachel Austin says. “Mark and I didn’t want to sit this one out. We really wanted to make an effort to help people.”
To assist the Houston Music Foundation, Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys and local rap legend Bun B relaunched the most delicious of fundraisers, the Hot Wang sandwich. Originally launched in September 2019 as part of the charitable “H-Town Originals” series along with Legacy Restaurant Groups Corporate Chef Alex Padilla, 50 percent of all sales of the Hot Wang sandwich will go back to the foundation for distribution via grants to musicians. Saint Arnolds Brewing Company also recently donated a portion of sales from their new Headliner beer towards the foundation.
The Austin Music Foundation, founded in 2002 to assist local artists, experienced the double whammy of the cancellation of South By Southwest, which led to a $355 million hit to the economy, and the closure of all concert and performance venues. They pivoted their approach to finding and directing their community to emergency resources.
The foundation provides one-on-one consultation and online information sessions for musicians and has waived all fees to the Austin music community. They are providing educational programming and additional means to help artists get through these uncertain times.
“Austin’s music community is enduring this crisis with remarkable fortitude and a sense of solidarity unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” says Jennifer Dugas, executive director for Austin Music Foundation. “The music industry is facing an unimaginable fallout from the global shutdown, the scope of which we may not fully understand for some time. When we come out of this, and we will, I believe our city will be at the forefront of a new way forward for the music business.”
People can donate directly through the AMF website at www.austinmusicfoundation.org.