Following the New Mexico Lawyers for the Arts Business of Music Summit, I, like a lot of people, found myself wondering what the hell the Santa Fe Music Alliance (SFMA) has been doing. The ragtag group of local musicians and music aficionados formed following last year’s Occupancy Tax Advisory Board meeting on cultural implications of economic development and, as far as anyone knew, had done little beyond spearheading a weekly radio show and hosting an event here and there. But then I caught up with founders Johny Broomdust and April Reese during a recent City Business and Quality of Life Committee meeting, where musicians and community members with a vested interest in artistically-based economic development urged the board to prioritize nightlife as an area of much-needed focus and rehabilitation, I have a clearer picture.
According to SFMA’s mission statement, the group was conceived to “bring musicians and music lovers together to work on building a better music scene,” but, from the outside, it almost looked like the group had merely finagled money from local artists to host barbecues. Dues run a one-time fee of $20, which, admittedly, is not a whole lot, but when you hand over any kind of money, you expect it to be the means to an end.
Broomdust tells SFR that monies from the 103 active members have been used responsibly, but that uniting artists has been challenging.
“At this point, we’re a four-person, volunteer board, and it seems like every time we push to do more or new things, we lose a member,” Broomdust adds. “[What] we are saying is that if people get involved, they can help us cook up things we want to do and then we can just do ‘em.”
So far, SFMA has been successful in a few areas. The weekly radio show on KVSF 101.5 with April Reese has been an excellent opportunity for addressing issues in an open, forum-like manner. And though the alliance can only claim three major events since its inception, they have made it a point to pay bands fairly and to invite non-country/Americana acts to the party. “We had Jupiter Spiral play at Cowgirl,” Reese points out. “That’s a band that might otherwise not have had the chance.”
Additionally, SFMA is working on creating an instrument bank which would allow members to borrow from a growing stockpile of instruments. It’s also building a website (santafemusicalliance.org) that will be a veritable treasure trove of musicians’ resources. The site will include information on healthcare, a social media facet that will allow bands to upload electronic press kits, videos and, perhaps most importantly, the means for all players and artists to unite under one flag and start working together.
It all boils down to one singular, embarrassingly obvious solution: the majority of Santa Fe musicians are looking for the same opportunities, but often seem like a string of independent island nations that operate under a platform of hurt feelings and misplaced pride. What the Santa Fe Music Alliance can offer, assuming local artists get involved, is a united front with which to approach the concepts of branding, touring, record production, show promotion and even the navigation of healthcare for artists.
Granted, the alliance could do better at informing their members as to their plans, but according to Reese, an upcoming newsletter will do just that and become a regular fixture. And really, like most struggling orgs in Santa Fe, it’s hard to do much without money.
SFMA’s next event takes place on Dec. 6 at the Center for Progress and Justice. The open meeting includes an auction of a $5,000 music video package courtesy of New Mexico film techs as a fundraising effort.
“Have we done every last thing we set out to do?” Broomdust asks. “No. Not yet. But even Austin City Limits didn’t have a festival in their first year…it’s time to focus on solutions and stop worrying about what we don’t do.”