Hardly Strictly Bluegrass raises $500k through virtual fest, awards $1.6m in grants

Fantastic Negrito, Let the Music Play On, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, HSB

Fantastic Negrito performs during Let the Music Play On, Courtesy: Ken Friedman.

Let the Music Play On, the virtual festival produced by Hardly Strictly Bluegrass last weekend resulted in in more than $3 million in relief for the music community in the Bay Area and across the U.S., producers announced this Wednesday. More than $500,000 was raised solely through the broadcast.

The three-hour broadcast, which aired Oct. 3 to more than 600,000 viewers, included performances and interviews by 35 artists, including Patty Griffin, Shakey Graves, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Steve Earle & the Halfgrass Dukes and John Doe of X.

The money raised from he broadcast went to Artist Relief, a coalition of national grant makers that have given out more than $13 million to artists nationwide. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass producers previously donated $1 million to the organization. The money will help Artist Relief extend its assistance programs through the end of 2020. Additionally, $25,000 raised through HSB merchandise sales through the broadcast was given to the Sweet Relief Rex Roadie Fund to help music industry crew members facing economic hardship.

Also on Wednesday, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass announced the Bay Area venues that will receive grants through its own relief fund for venues and local artists. To date, more than $1.6 million has been distributed to the local community, according to HSB.

Fifteen venues split $1 million, with grants ranging from $15,000 to $150,000: Ashkenaz, The Back Room, Bottom of the Hill, The Chapel, El Rio, Eli’s Mile High Club, Felton Music Hall, Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, The Ivy Room, The Lost Church, Mystic Theatre, The Monkey House, La Peña, Red Poppy Art House and The Starry Plough.

The grants will support the venues’ rent, staff salaries, upgrades related to reopening and music performances as each county permits.

“It is critical to support independent music venues at this time because they remain the heart of our local music ecosystem,” said Frances Hellman, one of the directors of the Hellman Foundation, a Hardly Strictly Bluegrass producer. “Small and mid-size venues like these serve as a critical pipeline for up-and-coming musicians, for staff to learn the business, and also as keepers of our cultural heritage. Every one of these venues holds a special place in their community, and we are glad to be able to pay back their dedication by supporting them now.”

The other $600,000 was split between 330 musicians, who each received $2,000 for urgent needs. The money was distributed first to those facing additional economic disadvantages. Overall, 62 percent of recipients were from a community of color, 25 percent were immigrants and 16 percent with a disability.

“We recognize how supporting individual roots musicians is essential to buoy cultural communities towards a post-pandemic future,” said Alliance for California Traditional Arts Executive Director Amy Kitchener, HSB’s partner in the project.

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