Features, Print April 30, 2020

With A Little Help From My Friends: Resources & Relief For Musicians During The Pandemic

by Valerie Vampola

Chris “K” Kresge was in this same position in 2013, when his friends lost everything in the flood that swept through Lyons and the Colorado Front Range. He found himself there again in 2017 when Hurricane Harvey devastated his friends in Houston. Chris (known for his presence on the scene at 105.5 The Colorado Sound, The Colorado Playlist and his band Goatz) had what he called a “crazy ass idea” to raise a million dollars for the musicians affected by natural disasters and community devastation, ultimately creating Rocky Mountain Music Relief – an organization that elevates musicians in need.

“There is nothing in my life that is not specifically done for musicians in Colorado. I’m known as the guy who supports Colorado,” said Chris K in a phone interview for BandWagon.

With the entire live music industry shut down due to COVID-19, Chris K recognizes that supporting the local music scene is more important now than ever. Raising money, especially in times when money is tight across the board, is tough, which is why Rocky Mountain Music Relief partnered with guitarist and president of Color Red Records, Eddie Roberts, and his musician emergency relief fund Eddie Roberts Payback. Currently, donations made through RMMR go to Eddie Roberts Payback, which then go directly to musicians. But this is only one of the many organizations on the radar for Kresge and his team.

Click here to apply!

Every week, members at Rocky Mountain Music Relief update a spreadsheet that points musicians and music industry professionals to grants and resources, including information for the demographic eligible to receive aid. (See that spreadsheet HERE)

“When working from a state of panic, Rocky Mountain Music Relief is wading through the information for people, because it’s overwhelming,” said board member and musician Cass Clayton.

There are grants through bigger and more nationally known organizations like MusiCares (funded by the Recording Academy known for the GRAMMY Awards Telecast) and benefits approved for self employed and gig workers, like musicians, through the CARES Act, but Rocky Mountain Music Relief pinpoints other resources that are also niche, like the NOMAD Fundraiser for crew and touring support professionals, or more localized organizations like The Bohemian Foundation.

The Bohemian Foundation continues to support the Northern Colorado music community with grants through NoCo Music Relief Fund, Music Event Fund, and Muse. NoCo Music Relief Fund provides up to $1000 to local music professionals who work in contemporary popular music. The IMAGINE 2020 Artist Assistance Fund, supported by Denver Arts & Venues, opens their grants to creative individuals in Denver county who are suffering financial losses. The Colorado Artist Relief Fund prioritizes lower-income artists and artists who have no other source of income.

“Arts and culture makes up 4.5% of the state’s GDP. It is important for Colorado’s creative workers to have access to essential funding during this economic interruption and these grants of up to $1000 will help cover basic needs such as food, rent, medical costs and childcare,” said Margaret Hunt, director of Colorado Creative Industries.

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While some of the programs are trying to ease the empty pockets of Colorado’s musicians, programs like Music Minds Matter aim to ease their minds. Founders Spencer Townshend Hughes and Angela Whaley started in 2018 as Mental Wellness Monday, an outlet for musicians to chat about frustrations and hardships they faced in their industry, after looking for help themselves. Now in the face of pandemic, they pushed forward with their online efforts, hosting free online group meetings every Monday through Zoom. Through grants from Denver Arts & Venues, they are able to provide individuals certified in mental first aid to music industry workers facing emotional struggles.

“We want people to have the conversation at their leisure. And the energy you feel after the meet-up is just wonderful,” said Hughes in a phone interview for BandWagon.

Musicians might not be defined as essential in the same way our medical workers and grocery store clerks are, but we still turn to our favorite albums and watch our favorite artists live stream songs to cope with the chaos. Supportive organizations like Rocky Mountain Music Relief are as important to the lives of musicians as music itself is to us.

For a list of financial resources or to make a donation, visit www.rockymountainmusicrelief.org

Music Minds Matter meets every Monday from 6pm-7pm MST. To join a meet-up or for more information, visit www.musicmindsmatter.org