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Live Music Society set to issue grants to small music venues

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Singer-songwriter Tom Rush is seen performing at Jonathan's in 2015. Singer-songwriter Tom Rush is seen performing at Jonathan's in 2015. (Photo by Reg Bennett)

Throughout the Covid pandemic, small venues specializing in live music have been hit especially hard. Many of these venues are where up and coming artists first find an audience, but tragically too many of them around the country are holding on by a shoestring if they haven’t already been shuttered. The nonprofit philanthropic organization Live Music Society has announced a third round of grants to be awarded this fall to small music venues (maximum capacity of 300) across the U.S. to help them hold on and hopefully regain their footing.

Since it came into existence in 2020, Live Music Society (LMS) has been committed to preventing the demise of the small music venue sector by issuing a series of grants. $1.2 Million has been distributed to date to 36 grantees according to LMS Executive Director, Cat Henry, who says the impact of losing small music venues would have a knock-on effect to the industry as a whole.

Jonathan’s Ogunquit is one of the small music venues that have already been awarded a grant from Live Music Society. The venue presents more than 50 concerts and comedy shows annually and currently has a packed performance schedule including upcoming shows from James Montgomery and his legendary Blues Band on October 15, comedian Bob Marley on October 28 and legendary vocalist Judy Collins on October 29.

LMS is committed to issuing up to $1 million in additional grants during this round. The application window for the current round of grants, ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, opened on September 28 and is scheduled to close on October 20 through the organization’s website, found at www.livemusicsociety.org.

Venue eligibility requirements are outlined under the “grant information” tab on the site. Applications will be reviewed by a jury in November and December and funds are scheduled to be dispersed to grantees in early February.

During an interview with The Maine Edge, LMS Executive Director Cat Henry spoke about the established venues in danger of closing and what that would mean to the music industry. She explained the factors at play in determining the amount of each grant from LMS, and what those funds have meant to some of its grant recipients from the first two rounds.

The Maine Edge: Is the fund itself mostly made up of grassroots donations from the public and private sectors?

Cat Henry: We’re a private operating foundation. We do some receive some funds from the general public but the majority of the fund comes from the fund’s board of directors. They are passionate advocates for live music and they put together the fund to help.

The Maine Edge: Does the amount of money contained in each grant vary depending on the 50 to 300 seat capacity of the venue?

Cat Henry: No, the seating capacity is an eligibility factor, but the grant amounts are based on a few things. The primary factor is the recipient’s need, given the challenging times that we’re in. Also taken into account is the applicant’s vision, their capacity to help build artist’s careers, and how they serve their local communities. We’re looking for venues that really have a symbiotic and economic relationship with the towns and cities that they’re in.

The Maine Edge: We know that some venues are hanging on by a shoestring. Is there any way to determine how many venues specializing in live music, the sort of venue we’re talking here, have been shuttered as a result of the pandemic?

Cat Henry: That’s an important question. It’s very hard to determine how many venues have closed but that’s something I intend to explore. The plight of smaller venues has had a fair amount of media attention but it’s going to be difficult to assess the long-term impact of potentially the demise of this sector. Just anecdotally, I’ve spoken to the members of the National Independent Venues Association. They are more than 3,000 strong and help lobby for Save Our Stages, the American Rescue Plan, and SVOG (shuttered venue operator’s grants). Each of those members knows a colleague or associate who is struggling or is trying to determine if they will be able to reopen.

The Maine Edge: What have you heard from some of your previous grant recipients about what that grant meant to them?

Cat Henry: We’ve heard from many of our grant recipients who’ve told us it really got them through and made them realize they were going to make it. Yesterday, I spoke with one of them who told me that they would not have survived without the grant. This week, Live Music Society was awarded the Cool Cat award from one of our grantee venues. Bop Stop, located in Cleveland, Ohio, is part of the great non-profit organization The Music Settlement. They had been closed throughout the pandemic, but the grant allowed them to pivot to live streaming, to pay artists for live streaming and to keep their audience and community engaged. Thankfully they are now looking at reopening with capacity restrictions and careful safety precautions.

The Maine Edge: The Live Music Society is a recently conceived organization. As Executive Director, what are some of your plans and goals for the future?

Cat Henry: We have a real opportunity to not only support established venues, which is where we’re beginning, but to also create conditions where new venues can begin, or the ones that have closed can start again from scratch. We’ll be looking at expanding our grant program into new areas in 2022. We intend to examine the entire music ecosystem and venues are just one part of it.

Last modified on Wednesday, 06 October 2021 08:33

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