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Nonprofit hits a new note: business lobbying

Austin Music People, AMP, unites competitors in effort.

Michael Corcoran
Paul Oveisi Owner of Momo's is leading group.

Solidarity was on display Tuesday at the "Austin City Limits" studio on the University of Texas campus, when a host of movers and shakers in the Austin music business community announced the formation of Austin Music People.

The nonprofit lobbying organization, which former Mayor Will Wynn called "a one-stop shop, a singular voice" for the local music community, is headed by Paul Oveisi, who owns Momo's live music club and formerly led the Live Music Task Force created by the Austin City Council in 2008.

Onstage during the news conference were local club owners, including Steve Wertheimer of the Continental Club and James Moody of the Mohawk, Roland Swenson and Brent Grulke of South by Southwest, Charles Attal and Charlie Jones of C3 Presents, musicians Adrian Quesada of Grupo Fantasma and Suzanna Choffel, plus managers, booking agents, publicists and retailers.

Many charter AMP members are competitors, joined in the mission to "protect and grow Austin's music culture and economy," Oveisi said. AMP is a 501(c)(6), a tax-exempt business league required to advance a community and allowed to be politically active, "and we intend to do so."

Wynn said the goal is for AMP to do for the music business community what the Austin Film Society does for the moviemaking community.

Oveisi outlined a three-step plan to "obsessively organize and recruit" new members, to listen to community concerns and to "bolster our cause through lobbying efforts."

Oveisi's task force recommended the creation of a city music department in 2008, but the City Council voted against that action and instead filled a single position of music program director, hiring Don Pitts. "At that time, we in the music community realized that we needed to organize," Oveisi said. Directors of South by Southwest, C3 Presents and Transmission Entertainment were among the first aboard the new nonprofit venture.

Oveisi said one immediate AMP goal is to commission a new economic impact study, calling the currently used figure of $1 billion and 18,000 jobs underrepresented.

Fans are encouraged to join at www.austinmusicpeople.org , where membership levels range from $1 to $49 for fans and $1,000 to $10,000 for businesses.

"This isn't just for promoters or club owners," Oveisi said. "The ecosystem of Austin's music scene includes everyone from bartenders to musicians."

AMP plans to host a town hall meeting later this year.

mcorcoran@statesman.com; 445-3652