Hardly Strictly Bluegrass’ ‘Let The Music Play On’ Raises $3M To Aid Bay Area Music Community

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
– Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass raised more than $3 million in relief funds for the music communities in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as nationwide with its “Let The Music Play On” online virtual festival Oct. 3. The event featured more than 35 artists and drew more than 600,000 viewers.

The three-hour broadcast raised more than $500,000 for its newest charity partner, Artist Relief, a coalition of national arts grantmakers that has disbursed more than $13 million to artists across the U.S. While the broadcast, like the festival, was free to view (with archive available through Oct. 11), it included artist pitches and information for viewers who wish to donate.
Money raised during “Let the Music Play On,” along with the initial $1 million donation Hardly Strictly Bluegrass made to Artist Relief, helps to extend their grant program to musicians through the end of the year. Additionally, sales of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass merchandise generated $25,000 for the Sweet Relief Rex Roadie Fund to help music crewmembers facing economic hardship.
The Hardly Strictly Music Relief Fund that launched in August to provide a financial lifeline to Bay Area musicians and venues during the pandemic shutdown, has provided more than $1.6 million to the local community.
The Fund dedicated $1 million to 15 venues, all of which have demonstrated a deep commitment to roots music and serve as beloved gathering places in the Bay Area.  Grant recipients are: Ashkenaz, The Back Room, Bottom of the Hill, The Chapel, El Rio, Eli’s Mile High Club, Felton Music Hall, Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, The Ivy Room, The Lost Church, Mystic Theatre, The Monkey House, La Peña, Red Poppy Art House, and The Starry Plough.
Grants range from $15,000 to $150,000 and support continued operations during the pandemic, including rent, staff salaries, upgrades related to reopening, and musical performances as each county permits. 
“It is critical to support independent music venues at this time because they remain the heart of our local music ecosystem,” states Frances Hellman, one of the directors of the Hellman Foundation that makes the festival possible. “Small and mid-size venues like these serve as a critical pipeline for up-and-coming musicians, for staff to learn the business, and also as keepers of our cultural heritage. Every one of these venues holds a special place in their community, and we are glad to be able to pay back their dedication by supporting them now.”
Bay Area musicians also received more than $600,000 through Hardly Strictly Bluegrass’ partnership with the Alliance for California Traditional Arts and the Center for Cultural Innovation. Some 330 financially vulnerable musicians each received $2,000 for their most urgent needs. 
Outreach prioritized populations that have suffered historically from economic disadvantages, and therefore have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Of the funding recipients, 62% of are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, or other communities of color, 25% are immigrants, and 16% are disabled.
The efforts to support artists, crews and independent venues has not gone unnoticed. 
“Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and its charitable efforts have shown exactly how much communities value the economic and creative contributions of performing arts,“ Rev. Moose, Executive Director and Co-Founder of NIVA, says.  “When bands don’t have a stage to perform on, it removes the vast majority of their income. Currently artists and the businesses that host them are in dire situations. NIVA members are locally-owned independent venues and promoters that give artists their first chance to perform, and they help them develop their careers. 
“Without support for the artists that perform at independent venues and with promoters, we risk losing a vital and treasured component of Bay Area neighborhoods, something that can’t be replicated,” Moose continues. “NIVA, an organization that preserves and nurtures the ecosystem of independent venues and promoters, realizes that without the artists our entire world would be worse off.”
 For more information on music relief and how you can donate visit https://www.artistrelief.org/hsb