REBEL REBEL: The Rebel Lounge in Phoenix, in the building previously known as The Mason Jar, is one of the 17 venues receiving a Music In Action grant from the Live Music Society.

With a focus on inclusivity, Live Music Society’s new Music In Action grant initiative provides $500,000 to 17 small venues across the U.S. that offer programs to support musicians and serve marginalized groups and people with disabilities. 

“It’s huge for The Rebel,” said Stephen Chilton, the owner and talent booker at The Rebel Lounge, a 314-capacity concert venue in Phoenix, Arizona. “A venue this size is not exactly profitable. We’ve always tried to make our booking decisions based on interesting artists and not necessarily the most lucrative. It’s hard and harder to make those tradeoffs.” 

“Countless accomplished musicians have tales about humble beginnings in small venues,” said Cat Henry, executive director of Live Music Society. “These spaces serve as a home base for young artists, providing them with an opportunity to experiment, develop and evolve in front of real, live people. There’s a special kind of magic in that. With our support, we’re empowering these venues to take a chance on emerging artists, giving them a platform while eliminating the fear of financial repercussions.”

Live Music Society was established in 2020 to help supply financial relief to small performance venues that nurtured emerging musicians while providing affordable access to live music in traditionally underserved communities. With the addition of Music In Action this year, the nonprofit foundation has distributed nearly $3 million to 126 venues. Live Music Society receives its funding from founder Peter Muller, supporters, fundraising and benefit shows. 

Funds from Music In Action will go to for-profit and nonprofit venues to help operators develop and implement local programs to expand their audience and generate new revenue sources. Applicants were able to request up to $50,000 in one of two categories: project support for one-time initiatives or program support for recurring annual efforts. 

“This grant is not just about financial support; it’s about building a network of dedicated supporters who share our passion for live music and its accessibility,” stated Nona Hendryx, member of legendary trio Labelle and a member of the Live Music Society board of directors.

This was Chilton’s first Live Music Society grant request. He’s using the funds to help underwrite the expense of booking emerging artists touring for the first time as a headliner to mitigate risk and provide a foothold for developing acts in the market. 

“A lot of what we do at Rebel is work with new artists and this will formalize that,” Chilton said of the funding. “Those are some of the biggest risks when you just have no history to go off of. There are all these expenses at the small end of the scale and it’s harder to take those chances with a new artist. The economics don’t support either side at this level, so having something like this is great.”

 Recipients are using the grants in a variety of ways:

  • In June 2024, The Ivy Room, an LGBTQ safe space in Albany, California, will organize a diverse range of Pride Month events such as live music, comedy shows, activist panels, job fairs and mental health support workshops. 
  • In Chicago, the Elastic Arts Foundation will revive their Dark Matter performance series and enhance the AfroFuturist Weekend festival, featuring talented Black artists from various neighborhoods in the city’s South and West Sides. 
  • Cafe CODA in Madison, Wisconsin, will expand their Cool School program, supplying free music education activities and introducing a mobile stage for increased accessibility. 
  • The Stone Church, in Brattleboro, Vermont, will continue their Grrls 2 The Front program in March, dedicating the month to women and nonbinary-led groups and offering a stage management/sound engineering course.

“By championing historically marginalized groups and fostering inclusivity, we can give these venues and organizations assistance to expand their audiences and ensure that live music remains a vital part of our culture,” Hendryx said.

 2023 Music In Action Grant Recipients: 

Big Room Bar – Columbus, Ohio 

Caffe Lena – Saratoga Springs, New York

Cafe CODA – Madison, Wisconsin

The Chocolate Church Arts Center – Bath, Main

Club Passim – Cambridge, Massachusetts

DazzleJazzle Inc. – Denver, Colorado

Drom – New York, New York

Elastic Arts Foundation – Chicago, Illinois 

The Happy Dog – Cleveland, Ohio

Hey Nonny – Arlington Heights, Illinois

The Ivy Room – Albany, California 

The Muse Performance Space – Lafayette, Colorado

The Parlour Providence – Providence, Rhode Island

The Rebel Lounge – Phoenix, Arizona 

The Stone Church – Brattleboro, Vermont

Sunset Tavern – Seattle, Washington

TAC Temescal Art Center – Oakland, California