Monday, February 23, 2009


I attend several live music events every week.

Even so, it's startling when performances like Friday's jazz event at the Gem Theater are preceded by a lengthy acknowledgment of various sponsors. In this case, they included the ArtsKC Fund, the City of Kansas City, MO, the Institute of Museum & Library Services, the National Endowment of the Arts, the Missouri Arts Council and the Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund.

I don't begrudge the American Jazz Museum or anyone else involved with Friday's excellent event for accepting those funds, but I can't help but wonder exactly how these sponsorship decisions are made.

Why does the majority of funding seem to be dedicated to classical and jazz events? Would last week's jazz concert at The Gem and the classical performances at The Folly have transpired without the assistance of taxpayer dollars? And if these events can't validate themselves through intrinsic audience support should they even take place?

I suspect that the owners of Jardine's, The Phoenix and Soho 119 could make an argument that the jazz they featured Friday also had great artistic merit. Yet these private sector businesses were competing directly against government favoritism.

And what about other genres? Both The Czar Bar and The Record Bar offered bills loaded with acclaimed rock and folk-rock artists on Friday night. Are they any less deserving of government support?

Are members of the local underground hip hop scene eligible for money? How about bluegrass musicians? Gospel acts?

I'm not entirely comfortably with this use of federal, state and city tax dollars. And as much as I adored Friday's jazz show, I honestly can't say it was superior to the self-sustaining hip hop and rock shows I attended in the last week.

Fire away...

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)


Applecart T. said...

Not a full comment, but: Gem and Folly are non-bar, non-food places, theaters, in fact.

The Czar, Jardine's, Soho 119 — they have food and also can make (theoretically, not going to adjust for econ. or smoking ban) tons of money on booze. They are businesses and not non-profit orgs (which Folly, etc. are).

Last time I was at Jardine's (a while, b/c $$$), and all the other times, it was packed, and I spent more than the price of a Folly ticket.

Folly and Symphony and Museums are "good for you," educational and, like libraries (and now, some argue, newspapers), provide a public service that would not survive in a completely free, unsubsidized market, the kind of place that more people than not "want" to go to but don't always …

Plenty of private citizens do support Folly, for example, but it's never going to be enough … without public money. It's that part of the Communist Manifesto I could never, as a writer, quite believe in — that there would always be enough willing sponsors of the arts to actually sustain the people making them. I am looking for someone to show me those numbers.

(Your arguments hold plenty of water, so I didn't address them directly / offered a few other ideas.)

Happy In Bag said...

What a great response, Applecart! It's much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

form a 501c3, create a program, illustrate a need for it and identify the audience(s) it will serve in a NTDF application, and hope that some $ comes.

the NTDF funds just about every request that comes in, although the amount of funding requests are far greater than the amount available in the pot.

some get cakes, some get cookies, some get morsels.

Happy In Bag said...

Very interesting, Cleveland. Do you suppose they'd cover the cost of maintaining Plastic Sax? It's $7.95 a year.

Anonymous said...

set it up in a way that it provides instruction, training, and/or education to kc area youth on the ever-growing field of marketing & communications and the various developments/trends within, such as the use of blogging and other social media.

make it an after-school program for kids that are looking to acquire new skills that will supplement the education they're getting in their schools...

or better yet - use it in the same way to "educate" and "improve the lives of" kansas city area jazz musicians who have little or no online presence.

CODA has excelled in its mission to provide financial support with regards to the passing of jazz musicians, but is also adding another "arm" to its operation to promote healthier lifestyles (physicall and financially) among musicians so that they're not having to always foot the bill, so to speak.

plasticsax's assistance to musicians provides them with better "health," knowing that they're using an important outlet that will raise awareness and hopefully increase attendance at performances.

build a budget around it (this may cost more than $7.95) and put together a proposal. It sounds similar to lockerpartner, more of a for-profit enterprise...

Anonymous said...

Funding is about preservationism, Happy. And it sticks in my craw too. On one hand, I'm glad it happens because it propogates the art for future generations and supports the artist. On the other hand, it's an artificial act that discourages cultural Darwinism.

Catch 22.