Shred City

New nonprofit Black Fret prepares to grant $100,000 to local musicians

New nonprofit Black Fret prepares to grant $100,000 to local musicians

Ben Kweller at Gibson in Austin 1579
Emily Bell performing at Black Fret's VIP event earlier this year. Photo by Jon Shapley

Black Fret is a new Austin nonprofit creating "patrons of local music." The nascent organization, which launched earlier this year, reached its initial goal of 100 members after a very successful membership drive and high-profile VIP gala in January.

"We have members in their twenties to members in their seventies," says Founder Matt Ott, "with professions as diverse as journalist, realtor, filmmaker, entrepreneur, etc." 

Now, its members are ready to move on with the organization's mission: to support local musicians with high-impact grants. With more than $100,000 in the bank, Black Fret has sufficient funds to sponsor its "first class" of 10 local bands and will deliver $10,000 grants to each. Members, who pay $1,500 annually (closer to $600 if you factor in tax deductions and corporate matching), have nominated their favorite local musicians for the Black Fret grant program. The 200 proposed nominees have been narrowed down to 20. 

Those 20 finalists are: Amy Cook, Danny Malone, Dawn and Hawkes, East Cameron Folkcore, Elias Haslanger and Church on Monday, Elizabeth McQueen, Emily Bell, Erin Ivey, Gina Chavez, Graham Wilkinson, Jitterbug Vipers, Johnny Gray, Lincoln Durham, Little Radar, Mother FalconQuiet Company, The Rocket Boys, The Whiskey Sisters, Wild Child and Zeale.

The next six months or so will serve as an evaluation period where Black Fret nominees will be performing at various events, some for Black Fret members only and some open to the public. Non-members can see nominees Dawn and Hawkes and Reed Turner at Uncle Billy’s Brew and Que this Saturday, April 26 from 7-10 pm. Then, on May 10, a yet to be disclosed Black Fret nominee will be performing at a members-only house party. 

The "first class" of grant recipients will be announced at Black Fret’s November Gala, The Black Ball. And come 2015, the grant recipients will be able to use their funding towards a number of different deliverables, including public performances, touring, songwriting and video production. 

One of the most interesting components of the program is the Artist Mentor Program AMP. Black Fret artists can choose to mentor other bands or be paired with experienced musicians who can pass on the kind of first-hand wisdom that can only be gained after years in the industry. Mentors range from record company owners to producers, mixers and booking agents. "We have had some amazing people step up to help our nominees and the greater music community," said Ott. 

To learn more about Black Fret, visit the organization's website