Addressing the needs of small U.S. music venues that were forced to shut their doors with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the newly instituted non-profit organization Live Music Society is launching its relief efforts with the first phase of monetary grants to 20 small clubs across the country. The organization is committed 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.
Based in 14 states across the country, the initial grant recipients boast strong connections to their communities and run the gamut of genre orientations. The venues 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. (A complete list of recipients can be found below.)
Founder and board chairman Pete Muller says of Live Music Society’s mission: “Music is magic. It has tremendous power to connect people and create energy. There are small venues around the country that create soul-filling experiences for their audiences, staff, and 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.”
Muller heads quantitative investment manager PDT Partners, but his roots and his heart are in music. A singer-songwriter and champion of music education, he 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.
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 performances; composer-musician-producer-engineer-educator Stephen Webber, dean of strategic initiatives for Berklee College of Music and executive director of BerkleeNYC; and 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.
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 a 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