An Austin Music Commission meeting on Wednesday focused on potential recommendations to the Austin City Council regarding the Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund, which the council established with a unanimous vote on April 23.
The $1.5 million fund, pulled from city emergency reserves, is designed to assist local musicians whose income has been drastically reduced during the coronavirus pandemic.
Wednesday’s meeting, conducted online with commissioners joining in from their homes or offices, largely involved consideration of partnering with MusiCares, a nonprofit run by the Recording Academy. Best known as the presenter of the Grammy Awards, the Academy established MusiCares in 1989 to assist musicians nationwide with medical, financial and other crises.
A handful of local music industry figures called in at the beginning of the meeting to express their support for a partnership with MusiCares, including producer and guitarist Adrian Quesada of the fast-rising band Black Pumas (whose scheduled Stubb’s shows this weekend have been moved to September).
Singer-songwriter Erin Ivey contended that MusiCares has "the existing infrastructure to process applications and a proven track record to distribute those funds in a timely manner."
Bandleader and former commission member Nakia Reynoso added: "I have also spoken with every major music nonprofit and foundation in the city personally and discussed the possibility of them utilizing this fund in some way, and not one of those organizations felt like they would meet the requirements set forth in the original ordinance."
Subsequent discussion focused partly on logistical matters such as how to determine eligibility for the funds, how payments would be administered, and how to ensure an inclusive pool of recipients. The current plan appears to be for individual payments of $1,000 to musicians who are approved. That could cover 1,500 musicians, given the $1.5 million allocated for the fund.
Several board members stressed the importance of including side musicians such as drummers and bassists in addition to performers whose names may be out front in a musical act. Commission member Patrice Pike also recommended an open enrollment period rather than a first-come, first-served scenario.
No formal vote was taken Wednesday about recommending MusiCares as a partner. Commission member Graham Reynolds noted that unless the City Council were to assign responsibility for partnership or implementation decisions to the commission, "we’re recommending to council as opposed to writing the document or being the deciders."