Newport Festivals Foundation Has Already Donated ‘Six Figures’ With Musicians Relief Fund, Continues Unveiling Folk Lineup

Newport Folk Festival 2017
Douglas Mason/Getty Images
– Newport Folk Festival 2017
A view of the crowd and bay from the top of Fort Adams during the Newport Folk Festival 2017 at Fort Adams State Park on July 30, 2017 in Newport, Rhode Island
Since Newport Festivals Foundation announced its Musician Relief Fund two and a half weeks ago, Newport Folk is continuing to support musicians by unveiling its 2020 artists – and many acts are showing the love right back to their fellow musicians via donations to the fund. 
The Musician Relief Fund is providing rapid micro and full grants to musicians experiencing lost income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on assisting musicians who have performed at the 10,000-capacity Newport Jazz or Folk Festivals, as well as artists in the Rhode Island community. The Fund was established by reallocating some of the funds the Festival Foundation already allocates to annual giving for music education after hearing “heart-wrenching tales” from musicians in need. 
“I don’t know about you, but I lean on music to help me through good times and, more importantly, bad times. You have to ask yourself what do the artists do? Who’s helping them?” Executive Producer Jay Sweet told Pollstar. 
“Because I have that direct relationship with the artists, perhaps more than any other festival, in some respects, I’m hearing what they’re going through and as a foundation who’s built our entire relationship on having direct partnerships with our musicians, we just felt we couldn’t sit and wait for help or hunker in the bunker,” Sweet said. “We decided if we have it, we have to give until it hurts. And by the way, this is not easy for us. We’re sitting there crossing our fingers that our event miraculously may still happen. But for us to sit and wait to find out our fate before we start helping our artists who are hurting, just felt like it was not in our DNA.”
Sweet talked to Pollstar the day after the fund was announced and said the amount of applications received had already been “overwhelming.” Along with a big response from those in need, Newport immediately saw support from people stepping up to donate to the relief fund. 
“A lot of the [donors] are musicians helping musicians, and audience members [giving] in small increments, of people just saying we need to do something. … Yesterday we had 50 people give between $5 and 10, it doesn’t sound like much but our grants are micro-grants at the moment, it’s enough to help one band. Who knows, helping that one band could really make a difference,” Sweet told Pollstar March 31. 
Two grant options are available: a one-time grant of $300 or less to cover immediate financial concerns or a full-grant of $300 or more to cover a significant portion of lost income related to coronavirus cancellation/postponements. 
“I’m proud of our fans and our organization and our supporters who are recognizing this is something unique. This tiny, tiny festival that artists seem to love and has decided to risk our own solvency to try [and help]. I mean, we just have to do it. There’s only two choices – do nothing and just pray that something happens, or you have to be proactive,” Sweet said. “If you’re really saying that you’re a community you have to be together in the good times and bad times.” 
By April 17 the Newport Festival Foundation told Pollstar it has “already given away low six figures.”
Jay Sweet
Taylor Hill / WireImage
– Jay Sweet
This Just In: Jay Sweet introduces surprise guest James Taylor during the Newport Folk Festival at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, R.I., on July 25, 2015.
While many festivals have been forced to cancel or postpone events, Newport’s festivals are still on the books. Newport Folk Festival is scheduled July 31 through Aug. 2 at Ft. Adams in Newport, R.I., followed by Newport Jazz Festival Aug. 7-9.
Sweet explained a few weeks ago that Newport is continuing to evaluate whether the festivals can be held based on communications with Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo. 
“We have a direct relationship with the governor of Rhode island, Gina Raimondo; I touch base with her a couple of times a week. We’re working together with a PSA of begging people to stay inside [to socially distance] because the more we can stay inside now, the better chances of having this festival,” Sweet said March 31. 
Newport Folk has continued rolling out its artist lineup to show support to its artists. Artists announced this week include Brittany Howard, Andrew Bird, Alexi Mudoch, Phoebe Bridgers, Sampa The Great, Natalie Hemby, Early James, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Resistance Revival Chorus, and Steve Gunn & William Tyler. 
“We’re announcing artists we’ve confirmed months and months ago to support the artists and the causes they believe in. It’s really that simple …  They need it now more than ever,” Sweet tweeted April 15. 
Newport unveils artists over a span of months, after tickets have already gone on sale and sold out in minutes. As a nonprofit, Newport Folk and Newport Jazz donate the proceeds from the festival to music education initiatives and music programs. In addition to paying artists a fee a play the festival, Newport also donations to a charity of their choosing. Charity recipients this year from Newport Folk artists include Make Music NOLA (on behalf of Randy Newman), Face the Music Foundation’s Grace Notes Project (on behalf of Waxahatchee) North Hunterdon High School (on behalf of Sharon Van Etten).
Some Newport Folk artists who were announced after the Musician Relief Fund was established have chosen to re-direct the donation on their behalf to the new COVID-19 Relief Fund, including Alexi Murdoch, Watkins Family Hour and The Ballroom Thieves. Other artists have helped in other ways. 
“Newport didn’t ask any anyone to donate, but Jim James graciously donated his fee from the Levi’s [5:01 live] stream to the fund and Billy Strings gave a very significant amount [from his merchandise sales]. Neither Jim nor Billy were even playing the festival this year, but have played in years past.  Other artists such as Sharon Van Etten, The Head and the Heart and Colin Meloy used their platforms with donate now buttons to also raise funds from their fans for the fund,” Sweet told Pollstar April 17.

The lineup for Newport Jazz includes Norah Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall, Khruangbin, Angélique Kidjo’s Remain In Light, Robert Glasper, Jimmy Cliff and more.