New Philanthropic Org Awards Grants to 20 Small Music Clubs to Help Survive the Pandemic

A new philanthropic organization, the Live Music Society, has awarded grants of 20 small music clubs around the United States to help them weather the ongoing shutdown, in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 per venue.

The org announced Wednesday that the grant program will be continuing over a two-year period, as well, with $2 million ultimately earmarked for live music venues in dire straits as a result of quarantine mandates.

The funds are aimed specifically at clubs with a capacity of 250 or less. The 20 venue operators chosen in this first round were notified of their grant status on Tuesday. Among those marked to be awarded money in this first round include such renowned rooms as the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, a nightly showcase for upcoming singer-songwriters; the Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, NY; the Jazz Showcase in Saratoga, New York, which dates back to 1947;  and Café Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY, a coffeehouse famous for hosting some of Bob Dylan’s earliest gigs in the early 1960s.

On its website, the Live Music Society issued a video dedicated to highlighting the place in the community of one club in particular, Soho in Santa Barbara, Calif. Other venues will have similar videos in the months to come.

In a statement, Live Music Society founder/board chairman Pete Muller said, “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 for 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.”

Much if not all of the money for the grants is believed to come from Muller, head of PDT Partners, an investment management firm who is also a singer-songwriter. In the past, he has stepped to help rescue the Power Station studio in New York City.

Calls to clubs to apply for the grants went out this fall through NIVA and word-of-mouth, before the Live Music Society formally announced itself. A jury narrowed down the applicants to the initial 20. Applications are sure to be more numerous for the next round, with the org saying the process will begin anew on Jan. 5.

“They’re super grateful,” said Joyce Lim, the Live Music Society’s executive director, on Tuesday shortly after the venues had been notified. She affirmed that the grants were not a cure-all for any of the clubs, given the scope of the financial hardships they face. “This is just a start,” she said. “We’re not saying this is okay now. We’re trying to highlight their stories and let people know that, in your community, there are these amazing venues that have done great work. Pay attention to them — save them. What we’re doing is the tip of the iceberg. We’re not the ultimate solution, but we want to highlight these clubs so their communities can be proud of them and know they need our help.”

Other board members include singer Nona Hendrux; Sofar SOunds co-founder Rafe Offer; Quincy Jones Productions president Adam Fell; former Folk Alliance president and Val Denn Agency head Val Denn; Nick Forster, of the bluegrass band Hot Rize; Stephen Webber, dean of strategic initiatives for Berklee College of Music; and accountant and nonprofit veteran Jeff Wilkins.

The cutoff of 250 capacity for clubs eligible for the grants is to offer particular assistance to the smallest venues that may get less attention even as other organizations like the National Independent Venue Association lobby and bring attention to endangered clubs and theaters. Other stipulations that the Live Music Society have established in the application process is that the clubs must have been open for at least three years and be dedicated primarily to live music, as opposed to restaurants or bars that offer live music mostly as an adjunct to food and beverage service.


The full list of clubs receiving the first round of grans:

The Hotel Café (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Dazzle Denver (Denver, Colo.)
Hi-Dive (Denver, Colo.)
SPACE (Evanston, Ill.)
The Jazz Showcase (Chicago, Ill.)
Club Passim (Cambridge, Mass.)
Jonathan’s Ogunquit (Ogunquit, Maine)
Seven Steps Up (Spring Lake, Mich.)
The Word Barn (Exeter, N.H.)
The Bowery Electric (New York, N.Y.)
Café Lena (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.)
Levon Helm Studios, Inc. (Woodstock, N.Y.)
BOP STOP @ The Music Settlement (Cleveland, Ohio)
Mercury Lounge (Tulsa, Okla.)
The Kennett Flash (Kennett Square, Pa.)
Club Café (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
McGonigel’s Mucky Duck (Houston, Texas)
Jammin’ Java (Vienna, Va.)
Barboza (Seattle, Wash.)
The Royal Room (Seattle, Wash.)

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