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Black Fret offers a new way to support the local music scene

Six squares on top of five other squares against a black background features photos of the artists who were announced as the recipients of this year's Black Fret grants.
Courtesy of Ben London
Black Fret launched in 2020 and is in its second year of awarding $5,000 grants to musicians in the Seattle area.

Black Fret is a nonprofit organization based in Austin, Texas, with a chapter in Seattle. Its model asks people to pay for a membership that gets them access to exclusive events and concerts. Those dues are then used to fund the grants they hand out to local musicians.

Eleven Seattle-based musicians will receive $5,000 with no strings attached, courtesy of Black Fret.

Black Fret was brought to Seattle in 2020. It has a unique funding approach where membership dues fund grants. Members in return get exclusive access to private events and concerts.

Ben London is the nonprofit’s executive director and is a local musician who has sat on a number of boards. He explains the importance of this new sort of approach to supporting the local music community.

"We have to be stewards of the things that we love," London said. "All the famous artists that come out of our communities at different levels, whether it's a Caitlin Sherman that's that's known in some circles, or it's a Brandi Carlile that's known around the world. They all come from somewhere, and we're all proud of them when they do stuff. We have to get them there."

Grant recipients span all genres. In its first year in Seattle, musicians included electronic artist Chong the Nomad, singer-songwriter Sera Cahoone, and the rock band The Black Tones — all of whom are considerably big names in the local music community. And that's for a reason.

"We're looking to work with, support or to engage with artists that have already, in some ways, pushed the boulder halfway up the hill," London said, "where these grants can really help kind of help push them to the next level."

This year's winners were just as diverse as last year's and included the self-professed "gunk-pop" group Black Ends, rapper Da Qween, and rock group Beverly Crusher. Cozell Wilson is the band's lead singer and guitarist. He couldn't stress just how much this money means to him and the band.

"When he called me, I felt like I should have screamed," Wilson said. "It basically they changed everything and literally erased the last two years of us not making that much money."

One of the first things the band did with the money? They bought a new van. Wilson described the immense amount of relief he felt with the news of getting the grant. He knows that to really grow, they need to get out and play in front of audiences beyond Seattle, something they haven't been able to do because of the pandemic, but also because of finances. Now with this grant, they can.

Learn more about Black Fret's Seattle chapter and membership here.

Grace Madigan covers arts and culture with a focus on how people express themselves and connect to their communities through art, music, media, food, and sport.