In the winter of 2012, Matt Ott and Colin Kendrick gathered in a South Austin backyard with some local musicians and a simple question in mind: what resources would really change the game for the city’s stronghold of aspiring artists? Though the native Austinites and childhood friends aren’t musicians themselves (Ott works for the organizational software company Personify, Kendrick for the solar energy company SunPower), they’d been involved in the local music scene for decades, having founded (along with Nikki Rowling [who recently authored the Austin Music Census for the City of Austin]) the Austin Music Foundation a decade earlier.
“It was just a really candid conversation about where each one of us was at,” recalls singer-songwriter Gina Chavez. “Some people needed a tour van, some people needed publicity, some people needed equipment—$10,000 to $20,000 are kind of the numbers people were talking about.”
Out of this gathering, and countless similar conversations, eventually emerged Black Fret, a 501 (c) (3) public charity that increasingly has made waves in the Austin music community for how it supports local talent. In just a few short years, Black Fret has given more than $280,000 directly to Austin artists, including rising stars Shakey Graves, Dana Falconberry, and Wild Child. Later this week, at their annual Black Ball, the organization will announce $200,000+ in grants—upwards of $5,000 for minor grants, $10,000 for major ones—that Black Fret will award to more than a dozen local musicians throughout 2017.