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Black Fret to award $160,000 to Austin musicians at virtual ball

Recent Austin360 Artist of the Month Nané is among the artists who will perform at the Black Fret Ball.  [Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman]

Like so many other galas this year, arts patronage organization Black Fret has opted to reimagine the 2020 Black Fret Ball, usually a red carpet affair at the Paramount Theatre, as a virtual party.  

On Dec. 12, the nonprofit will award $160,000 in $8,000 grants to the 20 musicians in its 2020 class of nominees during a broadcast event featuring a performance from each of the artists. The musicians, a diverse group of Austin standouts, are Dossey, Bayonne, Cilantro Boombox, Nobody’s Girl, Altamesa, Ali Holder, Darkbird, Moving Panoramas, Sir Woman, Carrie Rodriguez, Sam Houston & Blk Odyssy, The Belle Sounds, Nané, Think No Think, Dr JOE, Henry Invisible, Croy and the Boys, Love & Chaos, Barbara Nesbitt and Alesia Lani. 

RELATED:Massive sound, euphoric heart, Nané could be Austin's next breakout

The performances will be a mix of rebroadcasts from Black Fret events and sets recorded by Black Fret for the event. The show will also include interviews with the artists and will be free and open to the public. 

In past years, Black Fret has awarded 10 larger grants and 10 smaller grants to the nominees, but opted to equalize the awards this year in recognition of the challenges the COVID-19 era has created for all musicians.

“While this has been far from a normal year, I am so energized to see all of our artists continue to create new music, perform online in really cool ways and, on rare occasions, even live in safe and distanced settings,” said Black Fret Founder Colin Kendrick in a release about the event. 

Acknowledging the ongoing challenges the pandemic will present for musicians, Black Fret is launching a "Keep live music alive" membership drive and lowering annual dues from $1500 to $750. Ott said Black Fret leaders realized the hefty membership fees were "sometimes out of reach to single and younger citizens of our great city. "

"Music was struggling before the pandemic and needs our help now more than ever," he said. 

RELATED:Black Fret virtual concert series offers income stream for Austin acts

Built around the same sort of patronage model that has long supported classical music, Black Fret's charitable efforts this year included distributing $250,000 this year to its class of 2019 Black Fret Artists and paying musicians over $100,000 to play virtual and live events.

Black Fret organizers say that since the group was founded in 2013 they have paid almost $2.1 million to musicians with another $1.5 million in payments to music-related businesses. 

More information will be available at blackfret.org