As the pandemic continues and winter approaches, music venues are still not on solid ground, as we have previously reported. Fortunately, a new non-profit organization, Live Music Society, is launching relief efforts with a first phase of monetary grants to 20 small clubs across the country, and a commitment to giving $2 million in grants in its first two years of operation to support the live music ecosystem around the United States.
The Live Music Society Grants will supply philanthropic aid to music venues that have been in operation for three years or more with a sellable capacity of 250 occupants or less, with maximum one-year individual grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.
The first round of clubs who were selected are spread over 14 states across the US and serve multiple genres of music. They include such noted music stages as Club Passim (Cambridge, Mass.), the famed 85-seat folk club founded as Club 47 in 1958; the Jazz Showcase (Chicago, Ill.), the 170-seat Windy City landmark opened in 1947 by the late Joe Segal; Hotel Café (Los Angeles, Ca.) the intimate performance space featuring acoustic-based songwriters; and Caffé Lena (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.), the 110-seat coffeehouse where Bob Dylan performed in his folk-singing days. Locations stretch from Maine to Washington, and from Michigan to Texas.
Live Music Society will open the next round of applications for the 2021 cycle starting in early January. The criteria for application include:
• Venues with sellable capacity of 250 seats or less
• Venues that have been in operation for 3 years or more
• Venues that are committed to live music as its primary activity
The Live Music Society was founded by Peter Muller, a singer/songwriter and quantitative investment manager who helped save New York’s legendary Power Station studios in partnership with the Berklee College of Music in Boston and the New York City Mayor’s Office for Media and Entertainment.
“Music is magic. It has tremendous power to connect people and create energy,” Muller said in a statement. “There are small venues around the country that create soul-filling experiences for their audiences, staff, and for the local and touring musicians that play there. These clubs are a precious and important part of our nation’s music ecosystem, and our goal is to help them continue to be excellent at what they do.”
Board members include:
- Adam Fell, president of Quincy Jones Productions
- Val Denn, head of the Val Denn Agency, former president of Folk Alliance International, board member of Folk Music Canada and the Canadian Ambassador for The House of Songs
- Nick Forster, a longtime member of the progressive bluegrass band Hot Rize and founder-host of the noted Colorado-based radio show and podcast eTown
- Nona Hendryx, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, vocalist, songwriter, theatrical composer, and producer
- Rafe Offer, co-founder and executive chairman of Sofar Sounds, a company devoted to advancing a new model of intimate live musical performance
- Composer/musician/producer/engineer/educator Stephen Webber, dean of strategic initiatives for Berklee College of Music and executive director of BerkleeNYC
- Accountant and nonprofit veteran Jeff Wilkins
The COVID-19 pandemic reached critical mass in February, bringing national touring and local live performances to a grinding halt and forcing music venues to shut their doors, with no potential date for reopening at full capacity on the horizon. “Our original goal was to support a small network of like- minded clubs around the country that could share best practices and learn from each other. But then the pandemic hit, and now we are simply trying to help these clubs stay afloat until they can open their doors again.” Joyce Lim, Executive Director, spoke with all the awardees as part of the grant process. “There were many dire stories, but I’ve also been so inspired by the creativity, resilience and passion of the owners, managers and their teams to keep going, to give back and to support each other and their communities.”
Further information about Live Music Society grants can be found at www.livemusicsociety.org. The site will also include “Empty Spaces,” a section dedicated to videos highlighting small U.S. venues, and the stories of their experiences before and during the pandemic; SOhO (Santa Barbara, Calif.) is the first featured club.
The full list of clubs receiving Live Music Society Grants includes:
The Hotel Café (Los Angeles, Calif.), Dazzle Denver (Denver, Colo.), Hi-Dive (Denver, Colo.), SPACE (Evanston, Ill.), The Jazz Showcase (Chicago, Ill.), Club Passim (Cambridge, Mass.), Jonathan’s Ogunquit (Ogunquit, Maine), Seven Steps Up (Spring Lake, Mich.), The Word Barn (Exeter, N.H.), The Bowery Electric (New York, N.Y.), Caffé Lena (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.), Levon Helm Studios, Inc. (Woodstock, N.Y.), BOP STOP @ The Music Settlement (Cleveland, Ohio), Mercury Lounge (Tulsa, Okla.), The Kennett Flash (Kennett Square, Pa.), Club Café (Pittsburgh, Pa.), McGonigel’s Mucky Duck (Houston, Texas), Jammin’ Java (Vienna, Va.), Barboza (Seattle, Wash.), The Royal Room (Seattle, Wash.)