Colin Kendrick of the Austin Music Foundation Talks about Blackfret
Where are you from originally?
What university did you go to?
Colin holds a Master of Business Administration degree with a dual concentration in finance and accounting and a Bachelor of Science degree in radio, television, and film with a concentration in audio engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. During his undergraduate studies, Colin worked two seasons at KLRU public television as an audio intern for the award winning, nationally televised music program Austin City Limits. His experiences there and his graduate studies on sustainable funding for non-profits served as the catalyst for the concepts underlying the Austin Music Foundation and Black Fret.
What brought you to Austin?
I grew up in Austin and learned to love our city’s amazing music scene at a young age. I’ve seen the rewards it has brought our community and I’ve seen both the joys and the hardships it imposes on our artists.
What is your group’s mission?
Black Fret will provide hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in grants to Austin’s popular local musicians to assist them in the creation and performance of new music. Full information can be found at www.BlackFret.org .
What need does it fulfill?
It has never been harder to make a living as a musician. For centuries both classical and opera music have had the benefit of community financial support. Nothing like that has ever existed for the music that defines the moments of our generation. Black Fret is a young and vital new model for arts patronage that addresses that need.
For those musicians we serve, we provide a critical service at a critical time. As much as the digital revolution has empowered artists with falling costs to produce and distribute their music… it has taken more. Piracy, the collapse of the major record labels and a flood of starry-eyed bands willing to give their music away for free have endangered the livelihood of musicians who would otherwise be able to make a living with their art.
This challenge is compounded when you consider that cities with great local music scenes are among the most desirable places to live. They generally have growing economies driven by an excess of creative young inexpensive labor. Their success also means that the cost of living in music towns tends to rise fast. Many of these cities find themselves fighting to retain the cultural assets that made them great.
What exactly does it bring to startups?
Black Fret provides financially material grants that allow musicians to create and perform new music. Grant recipients are compensated for performing and touring, writing and recording new songs, mentoring other bands, and providing public service to other charities and schools.
What type of startup would benefit from your group?
Black Fret provides grants to rising and established musicians living in Austin through an invitation only application process. Nominees are selected by our members, by fellow musicians and by the general public through the Austin Chronicle’s Austin Music Awards.
What was the most challenging aspect of starting up the initiative?
The hardest part of starting a non-profit to serve local musicians is getting donors to understand why those artists need and deserve our support. When most folks think of the music industry they think about the glamorous lives of young and famous pop stars or their deadbeat friend who never worked an “honest” job in his life. For 99.99% of musicians it isn’t like that. They spend years and years perfecting their skills, refining their art and they do so with little to no support, risking their long term financial security and relationships because they believe, truly believe in the power of music to influence people. They are true entrepreneurs who know their product, their art, can change the world.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
If you’re serious about your art, learn to run it like a business.
What Austin-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?
Austin is lucky to have some amazing non-profits supporting our music community. The Austin Music Foundation provides business education and mentoring to our local artists. The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) and the SIMS Foundation provide healthcare and addiction recover services.