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Musicians rally at City Hall for COVID-19 relief
(Joe Lanane)

Kevin Russell of Austin band Shinyribs speaks Monday morning outside of Austin City Hall in a rally to support Austin music industry workers. City Council will consider COVID-19 relief measures this week.

Editor's Note 1:45 p.m.: This story has been updated from the previously published preview to the rally to tell what happened at the rally.

Austin music industry members and supporters rallied Monday morning in front of City Hall to remind elected officials of their essential role in the "Live Music Capital of the World."


Austin Texas Musicians and Amplified Sound Coalition, advocacy groups recently formed to support local music industry workers, co-hosted the rally ahead of City Council meetings scheduled this week to potentially approve a COVID-19 relief proposal that music industry workers say "doesn't go far enough." Several speakers instead proposed a three-point plan in support of Austin musicians, venues and support staff:

  1. Music Venue Preservation Fund: Dedicated, fast-tracked funding for music venues
  2. Clear Eligibility/Requirements: Simple application process and reasonable requirements for qualifying for relief aid
  3. Transparency: Clear understanding of how relief money is distributed and who receives it

"It's time to put up or shut up," Kevin Russell, frontman for Austin band Shinyribs, said repeatedly to the 200-plus people in attendance. "Too long this city rode our cultural coattails while taking us to the cleaners."

Russell was among almost a dozen musicians and music industry advocates to call for dedicated music industry relief money from city officials.

"We can't turn back time and we don't aspire to turn back time," Russell said. "But we can ask the city to repay our debt to this world-famous culture."

Other speakers included musicians Guy Forsyth, Lauryn Gould, Jesse Dayton and Anthony Farrell of Greyhounds as well as Reenie Collins, executive director of the Health Alliance of Austin Musicians, and Patsy Bouressa, executive director of the SIMS Foundation.

Nakia Reynoso, another musician who led the event as president and co-founder of Austin Texas Musicians, repeated a rallying cry throughout the event, "No money, no music," to emphasize the critical emergency in Austin's music scene amid a half-year of pandemic-related closures and canceled gigs.

"They know how valuable the brand of live music in Austin is, and they damn sure know it when they see how much tax revenue we drive to this city every single year," Reynoso said. "For six months, they keep telling us how valuable Austin music is with 'blah, blah, blah' resolutions. But we have yet to see any actual substantial help for the venues that employ us."

Musicians, as well as venue workers, engineers, site security and other essential workers, are struggling right now, said Jeannette Gregor, a longtime bartender at Mohawk and co-founder of Austin Sound Coalition.

"I recognize all of you for who you are: skilled laborers who are a crucial part of Austin's identity," Gregor told the crowd.

The option to pivot to another paying job isn't practical, she said, and it denies the fact that music industry jobs represent legitimate careers.

"These gigs are part of our careers and our work may be what defines us individually, but our work is what defines this town, too," Gregor said. "We want to go back to work, desperately."

Gregor called for the industry to unite regardless of past allegiances or grudges, starting with agenda items slated during Thursday's City Council meeting.

"Together if we stand united we can amplify our voices and they will have no choice but to listen," Gregor said.

City Council meets for its routine work session at 9 a.m. Tuesday before its full meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday to potentially discuss COVID-19 relief money for essential Austin industries, including music workers.

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