As Marble Falls recording artist John Arthur Martinez sees it, small live music venues are a lifeline to musicians and the Save Our Stages Act is a lifeline to the venues.
The recently passed federal legislation is providing $15 billion to help support these small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is great news for those venues, and not just for them but the communities they’re in,” Martinez said. “These places are worth saving because they are owned by our neighbors who live in our communities.”
In December, the Save Our Stages Act became law after both the U.S House of Representatives and Senate passed the legislation containing the act and President Donald Trump signed it.
U.S. Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), whose district includes Burnet County, began advocating on behalf of independent live music venues in May. He later introduced the Save Our Stages Act into the House. Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) championed the act in the Senate.
During a Dec. 30, 2020, media conference at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth, Williams said the funding — $15 billion via Small Business Administration grants — would allow venue owners to pay rent, cover bills, and support employees during the pandemic. Music venues were some of the first businesses to be closed and the last to reopen in 2020.
According to Williams, the SBA’s application process should be up and running by mid-January.
“It will be an easy process,” Williams said. “We’ll be able to help (businesses) through it if they need a hand.”
When Williams began his efforts to help small music venues, he pointed out that they are often the “cultural hubs” in their communities and “play a crucial role in our societal identity.”
For Martinez, they’re how he and other musicians pay the bills.
“I have to do every possible way to make a living as an independent artist, and without these venues, I’d struggle so much,” he said. “Each one of these venues like RBar (in Marble Falls) and Trailblazer (Grille in Burnet) would provide me with a weekly show. At those shows, people would buy CDs or maybe hire us for a private concert.
“It’s been a struggle this past year,” Martinez said. “I’m glad and relieved that there’s going to be some money to help extend a lifeline to these places.”
The legislation provides SBA grants to independent live music venues, live performance arts organizations, and motion picture theaters affected by COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions.
Martinez said he hopes Highland Lakes venues apply for and receive funding.
“You look around the Hill Country, and it’s places like Luckenbach and the RBar and Brass Hall in Marble Falls, and going over into Austin, you have Poodie’s Hilltop — that’s such an icon. These are the places that give the Hill Country its character, and they’re so worth saving.”