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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Hearing Fort Worth: New initiative turns up volume on local music

Visit Fort Worth


Fort Worth is putting a little money where its ears are.

On Oct. 3, Visit Fort Worth and its affiliate Hear Fort Worth announced several initiatives to market local music and musicians. The initiatives include travel grants and a recording opportunity with nationally-recognized studio Niles City Sound, geared to give a hand to local musicians develop and reach a larger audience.

“Music is a magnet for visitors,” said Bob Jameson, president and CEO of Visit Fort Worth. “We want to ensure that Fort Worth artists have the opportunity to develop and make our local scene even richer.”

In music, four new programs will help spotlight emerging talent:

– A new program called Studio Sessions, in partnership with Niles City Sound, will select four emerging artists to develop and produce a record single. Niles City will announce the artists at the Visit Fort Worth annual meeting on Feb. 6, 2019.

– To help artists beginning to tour, Hear Fort Worth will offer travel grants of up to $500 each. Applications can be made Nov. 1 through Sept. 30, 2019, at HearFortWorth.com while funds last.

– A new Artist Showcase will feature a different musician each month on social media channels and online by Hear Fort Worth and Visit Fort Worth. Hear Fort Worth will reimburse musicians who apply to play a showcase at SXSW 2019. This is made possible by a grant from 95.9 The Ranch.

This new push for music comes on the heels of Fort Worth being approved for a Media Production Development Zone on the Near Southside. Said Fort Worth Economic Development Director Robert Sturns in a Tweet: “Just got word that our Media Production Development Zone was officially approved by the state. Looking forward to growing our creative class in Fort Worth!”

Back in June, as a prelude to this becoming a reality, the city council adopted an ordinance designating the Southside tax increment financing district as Media Production Development Zone Number One in Fort Worth. 

The zone carries a two-year sales and use tax exemption.

“We’ve already had some significant interest from other media firms interested in accessing the zone,” Sturns said. “So I think this will be another element in our toolbox to encourage growth in our creative and entrepreneurial industries. I think this will be a great asset for Fort Worth.”

The zone includes the area near Niles City Sound, the Near Southside studio that helped discover and develop Leon Bridges, whose first album was nominated for a Grammy award.

“We are proud to work with Visit Fort Worth on this special program. We want to share our studio with emerging artists looking for the opportunity to develop,” said Chris Vivion of Niles City Sound.

Vivion and two former members of the indie band White Denim, Josh Block and Austin Jenkins, founded Niles City Sound. They gained a reputation for capturing authentic sound with vintage recording equipment.

In 2017, Fort Worth was named the first music-friendly city in Texas by the Office of the Governor. The program recognizes cities working to support the music industry and promote its economic impact.

“We applaud Fort Worth for its innovative approach to marketing local artists,” said Brendon Anthony, director of the Texas Music Office. “It’s rare to find cities that are as committed to programs that develop talent and increase opportunity for musicians on the rise.”

Fort Worth’s music heritage spans decades, from the late jazz great Ornette Coleman and to Oscar-winning producer T Bone Burnett and Bridges.

The city is also home to legendary music venues including Billy Bob’s Texas and the White Elephant Saloon. The Western Swing legend Bob Wills lived here for many years.

Several Fort Worth musicians have found success on NBC’s top-rated music competition program, The Voice, including Luke Wade and Austin Allsup. Allsup performed for several people attending the announcement of the Visit Fort Worth program.

Fort Worth musician Michael Lee, 30, is the latest talent to be chosen as a contestant on The Voice. He sang B.B. King’s hit The Thrill is Gone and decided to go with Blake Shelton as his coach, but not before an argument broke out between Burleson’s Kelly Clarkson and the Oklahoma-born Shelton.

“Dallas is the same as Fort Worth. It’s called DFW,” Clarkson said. Shelton, who recently played a pop-up concert at Billy Bob’s Texas, dissented from that opinion, as did several others, including Mayor Betsy Price, who chimed in on Twitter.

Also on Oct. 3, Visit Fort Worth celebrated the third anniversary of the Fort Worth Film Commission with highlights from recent activity, including:

– Assisted more than 500 projects in the first three years.

– Secured filming for The Old Man & The Gun, starring Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek and Casey Affleck, which opened Oct. 5.

– Secured filming for Miss Juneteenth, a project under development by Fort Worth’s Channing Godfrey Peoples, named one of 25 filmmakers to watch by Filmmaker Magazine.

– Secured filming for Never Goin’ Back by DFW’s Augustine Frizzell, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2018.

– Supported production of the Fort Worth Stories film series.

“This is a great beginning,” said Film Commissioner Jessica Christopherson. “We have hosted some high-profile projects and assisted many local filmmakers thanks to incredible support from our partners.”

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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