HoB Music Forward Foundation’s Nurit Smith Talks Crew Nation Relief Fund

Nurit Smith

Moving Music Forward Executive Director Nurit Smith

When Live Nation established its Crew Nation relief fund, it did so under the charitable umbrella of House of Blues Music Forward Foundation, a 501c3 that operates programs that support young people entering the music industry and, as such, can administer tax-exempt funds like Crew Nation. 

Live Nation President/CEO Michael Rapino announced March 31 the company would seed it with a $5 million grant and an additional $5 million matching donor challenge, instantly putting Music Forward Foundation at the forefront of efforts to assist independent contractors, freelancers and other “gig economy” workers in the live entertainment business who lost jobs overnight to the coronavirus pandemic.

Music Forward Foundation Executive Director Nurit Smith recently spoke with Pollstar about the fund, and about the foundation’s work and purpose.

Pollstar: It feels like the bottom just fell out over night. How is the coronavirus impacting Music Forward Foundation? 

Nurit Smith: We are continuing to provide youth who have been disconnected from school and community with inspiration and learning during the crisis by shifting our programs that normally take place on campuses and in venues, to take place virtually – we have weekly industry session: panels and workshops featuring industry pros sharing knowledge and insight on relevant topics in the music industry plus a weekly “Spotlight: Unplugged” Instagram Live series featuring our top-tier alumni artists.

What is the mission of Music Forward Foundation?

When you look on the Live Nation website, under “Empowered By,” you’ll see us listed as empowering the next generation. Our mission is to transform young lives, inspire careers, and champion a more inclusive music industry. In addition to providing transformational experiences to youth, we want to ensure that we are serving and being responsive to the needs of the industry as well.

Tell us a little about Music Forward Foundation’s history.

We are a nonprofit and we evolved into Music Forward Foundation about 6-7 years ago. We were birthed in 1993, 27 years ago, baked into the ethos of the House of Blues “help ever, hurt never” unity and diversity and all of those constructs. I still hold on to those even though we have grown and expanded beyond House of Blues venues. I find that with our organization still rooted in those ideals we are able to fulfill our mission in intentional, inclusive and impactful ways.

How quickly did Crew Nation come together?

I got a call last week and we all wanted to mobilize and help. Quickly, early on, we knew this was for those that don’t have the safety net. This was for those who don’t have the safety net. We were all trying to understand what and where the need was, what was already out there, and what the gaps were that are still out there.

Some of the most vulnerable of our crew people are those independent contractors that don’t have a safety net. As we’re rolling this out we are also reaching out to other vendors who are partners as well because their health and the health of their crews is just as important for the whole ecosystem of live entertainment.

So this also includes venue workers?

Yes, although if you have received any pay from an employer from Martch 15, 2020 through April 30, 2020 you are not eligible. If they are gig workers, including the caterers, we are honing in on all of that and the application process will be open soon.  We want this to be a global fund so it will be for people around the world.

I think we’re all moving as fast as we can. Michael (Rapino) would have loved it if we could have rolled it out a week ago. We see the need and we want to be responsive as we can to what’s happening.

What has the response been so far to Crew Nation?

We’re receiving some of these emails at Crew Nation and people are hurting right now. 

I think that part of the hope, and that’s why there is a $5 million challenge grant that Michael Rapino is putting up as well, is to help galvanize more support so we can give more money and help a lot of these folks. In back-of-the-napkin sort of numbers it’s tens of thousands of people.

 So the challenge is kind of a nudge for other large companies and executives to pitch in as well?

Bingo. It’s hoped to be a catalyst. We want to engage our artists, partners and other executives who are giving significant dollars right now to drive the fund.

Some of the larger vendors are all supporting it, as part of the ecosystem, and helping to create as much of an impact as we can.

We understand that these crews are the ones that help create these moments that become indelible in our lives.