May 6, 2022 - News

New concert series to amp up NWA's music scene

Illustration of a quarter inside a guitar.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

NWA doesn't lack musical talent, but its musical talent could use some help gaining a national profile. Music industry leaders say they’re looking to change that.

What's happening: Austin-based nonprofit Black Fret is working with Bentonville nonprofit House of Songs to give more resources to local musicians and bring more touring musicians to the region for shows.

  • Black Fret is in the midst of a pilot program where it is hosting 12 shows at various venues.
  • It received a $150,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation for the pilot and plans to return in the fall with regular concerts.

How it works: Black Fret will have a series of concerts open to the public as well as members-only shows. Members pay $750 a year and get to nominate and vote on which bands they’d like to see receive grants. Kendrick is also on the board of directors at House of Songs.

  • Black Fret focuses on the professional development and funding of musicians by connecting them with venues and giving them grants to help them record music and go on tour, Colin Kendrick, founder and CEO at Black Fret, told Axios.
  • House of Songs focuses on introducing musicians to each other and helping them improve creatively, Kendrick and Troy Campbell, founder and creative director at House of Songs, told Axios.

State of play: "The population of Northwest Arkansas is the same as the population of Austin in 1985, and Austin had a banging music scene in 1985, so Northwest Arkansas is plenty big enough to have a mature music scene," Kendrick said.

Yes, but: NWA's population is still relatively small compared to most major music destinations, and its population is more spread out, making it challenging to fill music venues on weeknights. The region is also somewhat geographically isolated, making it difficult for NWA musicians to tour, Kendrick said.

  • Those are all challenges that Black Fret wants to address.

What they're saying: The goal is to amplify the music community and get more people to come to shows and fall in love with music here, creating more demand for additional music venues, Campbell said.

  • "We don’t see other organizations as competition. We see people who don't care about music as competition," he said.

What's next: Two more public shows remain as part of the pilot — Pat Byrne and Beat Root Revival at 8pm Saturday at Heartbreak House in Fayetteville and Western Youth with Arkansauce and Rachel Ammons at 6:30pm on May 14 at Railyard Live in Rogers.

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