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Houston launches $3 million relief fund for musicians and music venues impacted by pandemic

Musicians will be eligible for up to $5,000. Music venues can get up to $50,000 or $100,000, depending on their budget size.

HOUSTON — Help is on the way for Houston musicians and music venues hit hard by the pandemic after City Council voted Wednesday to set up a $3 million relief fund.

CARES Act dollars allocated to the city will fund the Musicians and Music Venues Economic Relief Program.

Musicians will be eligible for up to $5,000. Music venues can get up to $50,000 or $100,000, depending on their budget size.

Applicants will be scored based on need to ensure fairness, and money will be awarded until they run out.

To qualify, applicants must:

  • Have a live music venue within Houston city limits or be a musician living in Houston
  • Show evidence of how business revenue has significantly dropped because of government restrictions or other COVID-related challenges
  • Be in good standing with city requirements like property taxes

The nonprofit Mid-America Arts Alliance is running this relief program.

They’re currently accepting applications through 5 p.m. on November 25. Those applications must be completed online at www.houstoncaresaboutmusic.org.

Houston is home to more than 1,400 independently-owned music venues. Many were among the first to close because of the pandemic and will likely be among the last to reopen.

Mark Austin, Heights Theater’s senior talent buyer, said the fund will help not only ticketed live music venues and their artists, but also musicians who play coffee shops, breweries and restaurants.

“It’s dire,” said Austin. “The need is immediate. It has been immediate. It’s a step in the right direction, and we’re very thankful for what’s happened in terms of allocating this money to this community.”

Adam Brackman, a partner at Axelrad Beer Garden in Midtown, reopened his business in October after being forced to shut down twice due to the pandemic.

Even with fewer customers and more outdoor table service and social distancing, Brackman said live music remains a priority. 

“This relief fund is huge,” said Brackman. “It’s going to make a big difference for a lot of people and a lot of businesses. I think that it’s a good start. I think that $3 million is a drop in the bucket that has had a thousand holes punched into it.”

City Council Member Abbie Kamin, whose District C includes the Heights Theater, agrees. She says the state has close to $5 billion in CARES Act funding.

“Hardly any of it has been spent so far,” Kamin said. “So, my question is, where is that money going? Why has that money not been spent, and how do we draw down those dollars to make sure that we are getting help to as many Houstonians right now as possible?”

Kamin also pointed to a relief package that passed the U.S. House but has not been advanced by the Senate.

The City of Houston previously launched COVID-19 relief programs for small businesses and renters.