About Black Fret


What Is Black Fret?

Black Fret is a 501(c)3 tax exempt public charity headquartered in Austin, Texas (the “Live Music Capital of the World”).

Black Fret is built on the simple idea that local music is art, worthy of community support just like the symphony and the opera have been supported for generations. Our mission is to enable the creation and performance of new music by Austin’s exceptional local musicians. Our vision is to build an endowed institution capable of sustaining over a million dollars a year in grants to Austin musicians.

To achieve this, we are looking for a limited group of dedicated local music fans to become Black Fret Members. Members pay annual dues to fund artist grants and performance fees. Members nominate the bands they love, gather to see them perform in interesting venues all over the city, and vote to allocate Black Fret grants to exceptional artists at the end of each year. As a Black Fret Member, you gain access for yourself and a guest to over 20 unique performance events each year.

Your membership allows Black Fret to grow its impact for Austin music – regardless of the number of events you attend or your level of involvement in the Artist Selection Process. In just 4 years of giving, Black Fret has surpassed $1 million in grants and performance payments to Austin musicians.

Over the next decade we will fund hundreds of bands and thousands of new songs while building a new Austin institution capable of supporting the sustained artistic, cultural and economic growth of Austin and the artists who call our city home.

We hope you will join us in building this legacy.

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Mail may be sent to:
Black Fret
PO Box 29628
Austin, TX 78755

Black Fret Playlist

What Black Fret Does

Black Fret is a community of music fans dedicated to good music, good times and the sustainable success of Austin’s local musicians. Together we do three things:

(1) We provide grants and mentoring to exceptional musicians.
Black Fret members share, nominate, review and vote for musicians living and playing in Austin through our Artist Selection Process. Past grants have ranged from $5,000 to $18,000. Black Fret grant winners “unlock” their grant payments by achieving specific milestones (for example, writing and recording new songs, touring, or providing community service by performing in classrooms or at fundraisers for other charities).

Black Fret grant winners work directly with our Advisory Board and the local music community to take advantage of educational and mentoring opportunities, to help advance their professional careers and empower them to produce outstanding new music.

(2) We gather to see our Nominees perform in unique locations.
Black Fret holds over 20 unique performances throughout the year in a wide range of formats, from focused listening sessions to festival-style parties, and of course our annual awards show, the Black Fret Ball!

(3) We seek to build an endowment that allows more grants and more performances.
Once membership grows to support it, we plan to build an endowment with annual contributions from our members. As the endowment grows, the organization will leverage the interest earned on the invested dollars to provide more grants and support to artists and our broader community, creating significant incremental value for our Members’ charitable dollars. This lays the foundation for Black Fret to become a true Austin institution built by our dedicated community of music fans.

About Black Fret

Mission & Vision

About Black Fret

Our mission is to empower musicians to create and perform new music.

We seek to build an endowed institution capable of sustaining more than a $1 million dollars a year in grants to Austin’s musicians.

Empowered by this amazing institution in Austin, Black Fret envisions building a network of chapters in other music cities. Together, these chapters will unite thousands of music fans in supporting today’s finest musicians. We will ensure the sustained artistic, cultural and economic growth of the cities that have defined modern music and the exceptional musicians who choose to call those cities home.

For centuries, classical music has had the benefit of community financial support. Black Fret is an innovative evolution focused on supporting popular local music. It is a new model of arts patronage for the music that defines our modern lives.

For those musicians we serve, we provide meaningful support at a critical time. It has never been harder to make a living as a musician. The digital revolution has empowered artists with falling costs to produce and distribute their music, but the livelihood of working musicians is endangered by piracy, the collapse of major record labels, and the devaluation of music.

Compounding the challenge, cities with great local music scenes are among the most desirable places to live. The cost of living in music towns tends to rise fast. Many of these cities find themselves fighting to retain the cultural assets that make them great. Musicians are struggling to make a living.

Black Fret will empower musicians with funds, access to leading music industry professionals, a network of fans, facilities and staff, to help them attract a critical following in major markets quickly.

With every new membership, we are able to fulfill our mission and move closer to this vision.


Questions About Membership

Can I bring a guest?
Yes. Black Fret memberships include a +1 to each performance. Memberships and event tickets are non-transferable.

Where do you hold your events?
One of the things about Black Fret’s model that sets it apart from a traditional symphony or opera is that we move our event locations constantly. That gives us the chance to expose our members to interesting and diverse locations ranging from upscale (residences in the hills, downtown rooftops) to downbeat (the finest underground venues) to just plain cool (recording studios, private venues).

Why is there a one-time $100 new member fee?
This helps cover administrative costs of recruiting and onboarding new members.

Why is membership $1,500 annually?
We strive to balance limited membership capacity and our financial goals with annual dues that are achievable for most true music fans throughout our city. (Roughly the same cost as a yearly cable bill.) We want all our members to feel respected, connected, and inspired within an equitable patronage model. All members pay the same annual dues for the same rights and privileges as all other members. While Black Fret offers just one level of membership, we gratefully accept donations in any amount to support our mission.

Can I pay in installments?
Yes, when you make a pledge to annual membership, we are happy to accept installment payments toward your annual dues. Please indicate your intentions in the membership registration form.

Do you accept corporate matches?
Yes. Members can take advantage of corporate charitable match programs including those offered by Dell, Apple, Microsoft, Google and more. Many of these programs will match the portion of the donation for which no value is received. Black Fret allocates 20% of a member’s dues to funding performances, so $1200 a year out of your $1,500 donation is tax-deductible and eligible for corporate match. To become a member using corporate match, we recommend you pay $400 directly to Black Fret ($100 new member fee plus $300 in dues) and then sign up for $50/month or $46.16/bi-weekly matched by your employer to fund the remaining $1,200 over the course of the year. Please indicate that you will be using a corporate match in the membership registration form.

How do I find out if my company offers a charitable match?
Visit your employer’s internal website for employee benefits. Or ask your HR representative.

Why limit membership?
We believe our members deserve a premium listening experience and the chance to meet the artists they fund. This can best be achieved in venues with limited seating capacity. Black Fret is a community of dedicated music fans who are enriched by connecting with one another and with local music. We want to attract lifetime donors… people who will value a sustained relationship with a broad network of dynamic members and artists, all sharing a common passion for music and dedication to building a new Austin institution to support local musicians. We aim to reward our members and artists with benefits that are empowered by a business model based on continuous growth of an endowment and a legacy right that allows members to pass their limited membership to a child or to a friend.

What is your limit on membership?
Our vision is to sustain $1,000,000 per year in grants and build an endowed Austin institution capable of serving our community in perpetuity. We think that can be accomplished with as few as 800 members.

Can I donate more than $1,500?
Yes. Black Fret will gratefully accept larger donations and work with individual donors and corporate sponsors to create custom giving plans. Additionally, Members are welcome to pre-pay multiple years of membership dues in a single donation. Please indicate your intentions in the membership registration form.

Other than membership, how can I help?
Tell your friends who love music about us and help us grow!  Also, Black Fret gratefully accepts donations in any amount to support our mission. If hospitality is your thing, consider becoming an Event Hospitality Volunteer.

I’m a musician. How can I help?
Here are a few ways: How Artists Can Help Black Fret

About Black Fret FAQ
About Black Fret FAQ
About Black Fret FAQ
About Black Fret FAQ

Questions About Voting, Grants and Artist Selection

How do I get to vote to select a band to receive a grant?
In order to nominate and vote, you must be a Black Fret Member in good standing who has paid your new member fee and at least four full month’s dues (for a total of $600). This policy exists to prevent gaming of the voting process.

Can I nominate or vote for an artist who is a family member?
Members, Advisors and Artists are not allowed to nominate or vote for bands that include immediate family members. You are required to testify that you are in compliance with this rule as part of placing their nominations and votes. Violation of this rule is grounds for revocation of your membership, role on the Advisory Board or revocation of your grant and status as a Black Fret Artist or Nominee.

Can I nominate or vote for an artist I have a business relationship with?
Members and Artists are not allowed to nominate or vote for bands with which they have current or pending business relationships. Trading votes or trading votes for personal favors is also a violation of this rule. Because working with bands they believe in is an essential role of our Advisors, Advisors are allowed to nominate but NOT vote for artists with which they have a business relationship but ONLY if they disclose that relationship as part of the nomination process. You are required to testify that you are in compliance with this rule as part of placing your nominations and votes. Violation of this rule is grounds for revocation of your membership, role on the Advisory Board or revocation of your grant and status as a Black Fret Artist or Nominee.

How can I give a grant to a specific band?
Please consult your tax advisor for a professional opinion on this matter. Unfortunately, our understanding is that tax law does not easily accommodate this type of giving. A directed grant to an individual or a band is considered a gift and is generally not tax deductible. This is currently outside of Black Fret’s core offerings.

How do musicians get a grant?
Nominations and grant allocations are determined by members, advisors, and previous grant winners in a year-long Artist Selection Process. There is no unsolicited application process. You may bring a band to the attention of Black Fret staff and volunteers here: Band for Consideration. (Submission here does NOT provide visibility to your band to those members of Black Fret with the ability to nominate or vote for your band. It does NOT increase our chance of getting a grant nor of being invited to play at a Black Fret event. It only ensures the staff and volunteers who work for Black Fret have you on their radar.)

What are the requirements to be a Nominee?
Eligible artists are bands or individual musicians that (1) have at least 50% of band members claiming their primary residence on their personal tax returns as being within 50 miles of Austin, (2) would qualify as a Small Business according to the US Small Business Administration standards for Musical Groups and Artists, and (3) are not immediate family members of the Black Fret Board of Directors.

Why use the Austin Music Awards as a source for nominations?
Traditionally, 2 of our 20 yearly Nominee spots are reserved for the Best New Band and runner up in that category, so the voice of our whole city is reflected in our pool of Nominees. The Austin Chronicle, which runs the annual Austin Music Awards, is widely recognized as our city’s leading expert on the local music scene and draws readers invested in learning about our city’s vibrant live music culture. Their Austin Music Awards are annual readers’ choice awards based upon popular vote, one means of measuring the ability of any given piece of art to impact people. Artists who win have demonstrated the talent, drive and hustle necessary to motivate people to vote for them. The Austin Chronicle’s Music Awards have a long history of identifying many of our city’s top musicians before they rocketed on to national fame (ie Stevie Ray Vaughn, Spoon, Patty Griffin and many many more). To overcome the limitations of relying on any one source, the other 18 Nominees are determine by our members, advisors and prior Black Fret grant winners.

How do you ensure only the best musicians are selected?
Our goal is to fund exceptional musicians. Austin has thousands of them. No process can guarantee we find the absolute best. And there is no good way to give away money. Someone worthy is always left out. We do believe our process works to ensure we recognize and reward great bands. And we allocate our resources to provide meaningful funding to as many bands as we can. Our Artist Selection Process incorporates a variety of educated voices investing resources, time, and energy into making their selections over a year-long process. And it appears to be working. In 2016 six of ten of the “Best Bands in Austin” according to the Austin Music Awards were bands Black Fret had funded in the preceding three years.

Questions about Business Membership or Sponsorship

Can my business join as a Member?
No. Businesses may become sponsors but not members. Sponsorship can include tickets to all events but not voting rights. This is essential to ensure the integrity of the Artist Selection Process.

What can my business sponsor?
Black Fret offers a host of annual sponsorship opportunities. Cash sponsorships start at $5,000. Inquiries from food, beverage and other in-kind sponsors for a similar value of goods or services are welcome as well. Please contact sustain@blackfret.org if you would like additional information.

Questions about the Black Fret Model

Why build an Endowment?
Typical non-profits spend an inordinate amount of time raising money each year with little strategic vision for sustained financial growth. Fundraising costs frequently exceed 25% of an organization’s budget. Building an endowment early, consistently and as a transparent organizational goal should give our donors assurances for our future and for the long term sustained impact we can deliver with your valued personal charitable dollars. It allows us to limit our fundraising costs to less than 5% annually ensuring we make efficient use of your donation.

About Black Fret FAQ

Black Fret Board of Directors

Colin Kendrick - Black Fret FounderColin Kendrick – Chairman, President & Founder

In 1997 Colin wrote a business plan for what became the Austin Music Foundation (AMF). He served as the founding Executive Director of that organization between 2001 and 2003 and has served as a member of its board of directors ever since. Under his guidance AMF has raised and invested more than $1,500,000 into business education for Austin’s working musicians. Colin currently works for New York Life as a personal financial advisor. His previous work experience includes a decade as a strategist for Dell, several years in business development for Apple and SunPower, and as an executive officer of a start-up in the Austin Technology Incubator. Prior to that, Colin was a consultant for high net-worth individuals at Pricewaterhouse. His work there included portfolio management, tax compliance and philanthropic planning for individuals and family foundations.

Colin grew up in Austin’s and spent his formative years frequenting Liberty Lunch, the Continental Club, Black Cat, Broken Spoke, Hole In The Wall and all the finest music back-alleys and warrens he could find. He holds a Master of Business Administration degree with a dual concentration in finance and accounting and a Bachelor of Science degree in radio, television, and film with a concentration in audio engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. During his undergraduate studies, Colin worked two seasons at KLRU public television as an audio intern for the award winning, nationally televised music program Austin City Limits. His experiences there and his graduate studies on sustainable funding for non-profits served as the catalyst for the concepts underlying the Austin Music Foundation and Black Fret.

Matt OttMatt Ott – Vice Chairman & Co-Founder

Matt Ott has co-founded two nonprofits to help Austin’s local music community: the Austin Music Foundation and Black Fret. Combined they have provided millions in positive economic impact to Austin’s music scene and creative culture. With over 25 years of technology and marketing experience for Fortune 500 companies, startup businesses and not-for-profit organizations, Matt’s approach to his work is grounded in innovation, respect and clarity of their missions. In addition to acting as Executive Director of Black Fret Austin, he also serves as Director of Strategic Accounts for Charity Dynamics..

An Austinite since 1978, Matt and his family returned to Austin in 2005 after ten years in Silicon Valley, citing severe withdrawal symptoms related to a lack of real BBQ, friendly people and the most incredible music scene in the world.

Kerry EdwardsKerry Edwards – Treasurer and Secretary

Kerry Edwards has been in Austin for most of 30 years, enjoying everything from house music to country to opera along the way. Currently a Director at Dell Inc., Kerry brings 17 years business experience to Black Fret, in a variety of finance, accounting, grant management and procurement roles. She holds master degrees in finance, accounting, social work and philosophy.

When she’s not planning her next career, she can be found listening to her daughter’s rehearsals with the local Conspirare Youth Choir, enjoying ukulele music at home, or reading up on her current passion: music and the brain.

Black Fret Staff

Ben LondonBen London – Executive Director | Black Fret Seattle

Ben London is a Seattle based music professional/recording artist who currently serves as Executive Director for Black Fret Seattle. Prior, London held senior positions with Experience Music Project (MoPop), The GRAMMYS, Hewlett Packard and Northwest Polite Society.

London was the inaugural chair of the Seattle Music Commission and has served on boards including KEXP and the Vera Project. London’s music has been featured in a wide variety of movies and television programs.

He currently performs as a member of the Seattle band STAG.

Melissa O'ReillyMelissa O’Reilly – Director of Membership | Black Fret Austin

Melissa O’Reilly is a Black Fret member who was hired in August 2019 as the Director of Membership. She brings 15 years of experience in a variety of state political/legislative roles, and as corporate counsel for a healthcare software company, but she has a passion for nonprofits and has volunteered extensively for several local organizations.

A lifelong music lover, Melissa moved to Austin as soon as she could after college graduation. She has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida and a J.D. from Texas Tech University. She met her husband Brian while they were working as Capitol staffers, and their first date was at a secret Blues Traveler show at The Continental Club. Many years later, they have two kids and still love attending live music shows around town whenever they can.

Black Fret Advisory Board