Last month, I played in an idyllic backyard show in South Austin with local and international songwriting hero, Matt The Electrician. There was a pool, a patio, lights, a bar, and a sound system. Standing behind the mic was a giant metal sculpture with a back-lit red bird. The vibe was festive and energized. Matt and I were playing a recruiting event for Black Fret, an Austin based organization whose goal is to give musicians money.
Black Fret was started by Colin Kendrick and Matt Ott – two music lovers who believe that, with the right support and connections, musicians can go much farther than they can alone. In their own words:
Black Fret is a social and connected community of music fans dedicated to good music, good times, and the sustainable success of Austin's local musicians.
The idea is simple. In the same way that the ballet or the symphony are sustained by patrons from the community, local songwriters and performers could also be supported. Black Fret seeks that support through members – other music lovers – who buy in at a yearly membership fee. The membership fee provides patrons with voting rights on the Black Fret artist grants, as well as invites to all manner of special events. Among those events are backyard shows like the one Matt and I played, plus venue shows and the Black Fret Ball, where they reveal the recipients of their grants.
In 2014, their first acting year, Black Fret gave 10 Austin artists grants of $10,000 each. I am not sure about you, but I find this astounding. Black Fret also connects their musicians with mentors in order to provide them with the direction needed to shoot their proverbial arrows as high as possible. After the data found in the Austin Music Census, it seems we need as much support as we can get.
When I spoke with Matt Ott about Black Fret, he practically bubbled with enthusiasm for not only the music, but his ability to take part in it. Gleeful in being able to provide local musicians with the means to continue pursuing their craft in an ever-changing business model, Ott is proud to be on the front lines of a new idea.
I moved to Austin with a similar enthusiasm for the musicians who call this town home. I am proud to live in the same city with truly world-class musicians who play weekly shows to voracious yet small audiences. If Black Fret continues to grow in the way they are planning, you will start hearing about these musicians.