Minnesota fans have stepped up in a big way to support the local live music community, handing over $130,000 so far to the Twin Cities Music Community Trust in the first six weeks of the coronavirus quarantine.
More than 350 people have applied for and will receive grant money from the fund so far, according to First Avenue representatives, who announced those numbers Wednesday night along with stats on who's getting the grants.
Musicians make up 52 percent of the recipients, followed by bartenders and servers at 16 percent, event-planning staff at 11 percent, and then stage hands, ticketing employees and production crew members all under 10 percent apiece. They include workers from outside First Ave's family of venues.
Grants up to $500 apiece have gone out or are currently being processed, and so far no applicants were turned away who met the eligbility criteria, according to the announcement.
"The support has been amazing," First Ave general manager Nate Kranz raved.
Created by First Ave more than a decade ago as an ongoing fund for sidelined musicians and club employees, the Twin Cities Music Community Trust was already in place for a quick response to COVID-19 once venues around town began shutting down in mid-March. It looks like most of them will remain closed at least through May.
Many donations to the fund came in directly via its website, twincitiesmusiccommunitytrust.org. A donation link via GiveMN.org has now been set up, too. First Ave is also selling special merchandise to benefit the fund.
Hoopla around the club's 50th anniversary weekend in early April helped draw attention to the cause. So did outside fundraisers such as KARE-11's Band Together virtual concert with Soul Asylum and the Coloring Books for a Cause series co-created by club regular Sean "Har Mar Superstar" Tillmann, which will launch a second First Ave-themed coloring book next week.
The press release for the fund's efforts included thank-you notes written by some of the initial recipients, whose names were kept out for privacy. Instructions for applying are posted via the trust's website. Most of the applicants are part of the "gig workforce" working on a show-by-show basis, many of whom have had difficulty qualifying for governmental unemployment benefits.
"I literally just danced around the house and made 'pew pew' noises like fireworks and punched the air because I am so relieved," wrote one beneficiary. "You have paid the majority of my mortgage for the month as I am still awaiting unemployment for my 1099 income. I can't say enough kind words to express my gratitude."
Several other venues in town created their own separate fundraiser efforts to benefit their employees and/or musicians, including the Dakota, the Hook & Ladder, Crooners, the Amsterdam Bar & Hall and the 331 Club. First Ave's corporate competitor Live Nation — which owns the new Fillmore in Minneapolis — created the $10 million Crew Nation initiative globally via its chain of venues to benefit music professionals.