Fort Worth composes ways to tune up the city’s music scene

Credit: Fort Worth Report

Fort Worth will soon be home to another music festival.

Lost ’n Sound, an initiative of Near Southside Inc., was unveiled at Hear Fort Worth’s town hall on the state of the city’s music scene.

The nonprofit hopes that the recurring series of performances can help build connections between establishments and artists as well as filling the gap in venue spaces where emerging artists can perform. The launch is planned for May 18.

“Tonight we heard a lot about Lou CharLe$Leon Bridges and Cut Throat Finches, all very talented musicians, who we know by name,” said Megan Henderson, director of communications and events for Near Southside Inc. “But for every Lou CharLe$, there are so many musicians waiting in the wings trying to make those connections. … If you’re an emerging musician there’s this vacuum.”

Venues operated on razor thin margins even before the COVID-19 pandemic, and those margins have continued to shrink as operating costs increase, meaning that few spaces can afford to take the risk of booking an unknown artist.

Friday on the Green has been a great incubator for emerging musicians because money is not our priority. Our priority is community,” Henderson said.

However the cost of stages, production and construction near the outdoor green space where concerts were held meant that Near Southside Inc. had to make a decision.

“We either have to pause Friday on the Green or inject it with steroids, and inject it with steroids was the answer,” she continued. “Let’s take the concept of booking emerging artists. … Let’s create wacky bills with artists from different genres and approaches to music and put them on stage together … in a variety of unexpected spaces like art galleries and offices.”

The news was well-received in a larger conversation about current issues hindering artists, potential solutions and existing resources.

In addition to higher prices for everything from venue insurance to fencing and port-a-potties, venues are also struggling with high no-show rates from ticket holders, Texas Music Office Director Brendon Anthony said.

“There’s a really confounding statistic that I hear from almost every venue I step into … is the no-show thing. It’s bizarre,” Anthony said. “They can sell a room, and it won’t be full because 20% of the people just don’t show up. … It’s not like, ‘Oh, well. What’s the difference? It’s just more room for us to stand,’ (because if they’re not there) they’re not buying anything at the bar either.”

These issues are not specific to Fort Worth, Anthony said. What is unique here is the level of support people in the city have for local music, he continued, pointing to the full showroom.

Mayor Mattie Parker, District 9 council member Elizabeth Beck and several representatives from Visit Fort Worth joined the crowd of artists and music fans gathered in the showroom at Printed Threads.

Mayor Parker noted that as one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, Fort Worth has a responsibility to maintain the culture that makes it unique.

“I think one of the No. 1 responsibilities we have as city leaders is paying attention to who made this city great in the first place,” Parker said. “And it really is the people in this room, and the creative arts are something that sets Fort Worth apart from some of the largest cities in the world, and it’s a reason why people keep coming back over and over and over again.”

Tom Martens, director of the Fort Worth Music Office and associate vice president of creative branding at Visit Fort Worth, sees musicians as an asset to the city.

“It’s a community that brings these people together and makes stuff happen,” he said. “We want everyone to say, ‘Oh, that’s so awesome. That’s Lou CharLe$, he’s in Fort Worth. That’s Abraham Alexander, he’s from Fort Worth. That’s the Toadies. They’re here from Fort Worth.’ That’s what we want. … Because when musicians are on the road, they’re ambassadors for our city, and that’s the best thing we could ask for.”

The fact that so many of the artists who made it big still make their home in Fort Worth is a big deal.

Anthony, of the Texas Music Office, emphasized that scenes tend to follow scenes, so having such energy and excitement in the local music community is a huge benefit to Fort Worth.

“There are very, very few places in the world where something like this would happen, and let’s not take that for granted,” he said. “Let’s really recognize that being able to come together like this and talk about concerns that mean something to us and have been heard by people who can react to these issues and cause positive change for you is a real gift that you’re all helping invest in.”

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at [email protected]. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.