Norm Coleman's and Al Franken's lawyers weren't the only ones who got in line for a windfall payday the day after the election last week.
Arts groups statewide -- which received an especially icy reception in the frozen budgets of the past half-decade -- eyed the passage of the so-called Legacy Amendment like starving kids watching a pie cool on the windowsill.
The amendment could raise about $54 million for arts funding each year, which is 19.75 percent of the $270-odd million expected from the sales tax increase. The rest goes to trees and moose herds or something like that.
You can probably guess where this column is going. Consistently the red-headed stepchild when it comes to state, city and corporate funding of the arts, the Minnesota music community deserves a slice of the Legacy pie, too.
I'm going to presume that the culturally savvy staff at the State Arts Board -- which will likely dole out most of that new money -- doesn't need a lesson in the values of a strong music community. You know, stuff like how good music scenes attract a young, creative workforce and bring people into struggling downtown areas and raise a whole lot in state and city revenue (from alcohol sales taxes, entertainment licenses and fees).
I'll also assume that the SAB knows the music scene could especially use the help right now. Musicians are hurting from the cost of gassing up a tour van and the slump in CD sales. Clubs are still trying to recover from revenue loss caused by the smoking bans, not to mention such sore spots as Minneapolis' 11 percent tax on tickets/cover charges (even for a $5 lineup of local bands!).
No, I'm guessing what the arts board really needs are good ideas. The board's interim director, Sue Gens, confirmed as much when she called Tuesday on her day off.
"We always encourage people to contact us with ideas and give us feedback on how we can make the state better," Gens said.
That's exactly what I asked for last week in an e-mail sent out to musicians, club owners, label proprietors, etc. The respondents let out a collective "harrumph" over the lack of support from state and (at least in Minneapolis) city leaders in recent years. But they were serious about their proposals. Well, mostly serious. I left out the one about a beer-supply program for rehearsal spaces and the predictable "just write a check out to me" responses.
Here are the best ideas on where to spend some of that $54 million within the music scene.
1 Grants, grants, grants. The State Arts Board's No. 1 function, and musicians' No. 1 request. They're not asking for $50,000 to build a home studio with a swimming pool. Maybe just $2,000 to record a CD, or $500 in gas money to tour. Clubs and studios could also use them for new audio/stage equipment, maybe in exchange for community-serving projects.
2 Underage venues and shows. Fund more teen clubs statewide like the city-run Garage in Burnsville, which gives: a) young musicians a much-needed launching pad and b) all kids somewhere to go at night.
3 Health-care assistance for musicians. Again, they're not looking for something as major as a rock 'n' roll wing at the Mayo Clinic. Just some kind of program to help offset medical bills for established, hard-working, community-serving musicians -- people like Ipso Facto frontman Wain McFarlane, who endured three operations for a liver transplant this week.
4 The music orgs already hard at work. There are a lot of great nonprofits currently serving the state's music scene, such as DEMO, Rock the Cause, Vega Productions, Yo! the Movement and the Cedar Cultural Center. Even bigger cats such as the Walker Art Center or Minnesota Orchestra can be trusted to funnel money into the music scene (as they already have).
5 Minnesota Music Board. There's a Minnesota Film and TV Board, which we have to thank for "Jingle All the Way," but there's no board touting the state's music resources?!
6 Festivals. Events such as the B-Girl Be Summit, Twin Cities Pan African Festival, McNally Smith River Rocks, Twin Cities Celebration of Hip-Hop and Duluth's Homegrown Music Fest have produced significant cultural benefits. But they haven't made any money. Nonprofit fests could also be established to tout Minnesota music around the state. Or even just provide funding for more, better and/or readily usable outdoor venues.
7 Music education. Scholarships for the big schools like McNally Smith on down to music lessons for poor kids and new instruments for public schools. Working musicians benefit from music ed, too, since many make a living as instructors.
8 Just give back some of what the scene already gives. Did we mention all the taxes made off live music in this state?CD parties
Even after playing guitar with Haley Bonar and Carnage of late, local rocker William Michel (aka Bill Mike) found time to make a second CD with his Bill Mike Band -- the perfect time, actually. Titled "Truce," the disc is a post-election collection of songs that preach for cooler heads to prevail in these divided times. The theme is a bit forced, but songs like the jittery, frantic opener "Make Peace" and the futuristic-funk romp "Start Thinking" nonetheless hit the mark musically, fueled by Mike's frazzled, Radiohead-ian guitar playing and the innovative rhythms of bandmates Chris Morrissey on bass and Steve Goold on drums. Their release party tonight at the Cedar Cultural Center (8 p.m., $8-$10) is an "extravaganza" featuring a juggling troupe and youth rock orchestra.
Another unusual CD party: Albertville-based pop-rock band Section 30 has lined up two buses to shuttle its hometown fans to the Fine Line in Minneapolis on Saturday (9 p.m., $6). Albertville's not all that far away, but apparently the quartet's fans could be all that much in the bag. Its radio-friendly, BoDeans/Matchbox 20-ish anthems certainly sound made for a party. Especially "Goin' on a Bender."Random mix
As of Wednesday, things were looking good again for Wain McFarlane following a scare when his body rejected the first liver that was transplanted last week at the Mayo Clinic. Another was substituted Monday and seemed to be working properly. Recovery from all that won't be easy, though. ...
Ex-record store owners Ryan Cameron and John Kass -- who now do their business online at LetItBe.com and GoJohnnyGo.com, respectively -- will open up shop for one weekend only at the Hennepin Stages, 824 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. (across from Rock Bottom Brewery). They'll be selling off 10,000-plus vinyl albums at $1 apiece starting today at 3 p.m. through Sunday at 6 p.m. ...
Rock the Cause is putting on another glam-studded Glitter Ball tonight at the Varsity Theater (7:30 p.m., $10-$15). Organizers literally got approval from David Bowie (or at least his handlers) this year, since they wanted to use his image on the promo poster. An actual modern glam band, Crash Street Kids, is being brought in from Phoenix to show us how to play makeup and wear guitars. The local participants include White Light Riot, All the Pretty Horses, So It Goes and Mercurial Rage. Proceeds benefit Clare Housing and the Minnesota AIDS Project. ...
After six years of packing First Ave the night before Thanksgiving, Ike Reilly is turning one of his best-paying gigs of the year into a fundraiser this time around. The Nov. 26 show will benefit Takashi Yoshino, a longtime counselor at the Eden House treatment center and father of six who is battling cancer. Tickets are on sale now for $12. See what I mean about all the good deeds already going on in the local scene -- and Ike's not even a local.
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