"You know, if Underground really is going to get funded, a case has to be made for it all."
My hope is that those of you who read this blog will "spread the word" to as many people as you know. The more people that know about the need, the more chance there is that the need will be met.
I will try to do my best in terms of making this case for support. It is only fair to state that I am the audio technician mentioned in this document, and so I have a vested interest in the future of Underground as it pertains to my own interests. It is also only fair to state that this document is only my own observations and opinions, and not necessarily those of anyone else.
At least, by the standards of the regular music business, Underground doesn't work. However, in a sense, the core workings of Underground are not intended to. Underground was not carefully undertaken so as to provide a solid return on investment, experiencing sustainable growth in profitability for its operators. Instead, the whole point of what's being done is to give. The idea is to be as extravagant as possible with time and resources, so that local musicians will benefit from them. There is some offset to this, as local musicians do split the door with the house - but, in the long term, that won't be enough to keep the Underground vision alive.
Underground has, in some way or another, been a part of the local music scene since "the bottom half" of 2005. There have been some fits and starts, and times when Underground was a part of something else, but its identity has always stayed alive (at least a little bit). In 2008, a decision was made to re-ignite that identity, and Underground is currently operating (although with a recent slump) as 2009 begins to wane. During the last year, Underground has had success greater than anyone anticipated. However, Underground is facing rather substantial cost increases over time, mostly in the realms of retaining professional staff, and upgrading its facilities. If Underground is to serve the arts in the long term, these challenges must be met.
Why New Song Underground Is Important
New Song Underground is important because it fills a niche that rarely receives any great attention in the music world. It is a place that is friendly to almost any musician who desires to perform within its confines (both physical and those of "policy"), and also exists to benefit these artists at least as much as itself. The aim of Underground is to supply performing artists with the classiest, and most professional live-music production that can be achieved with the resources available to us.
Underground strives to operate on the premise that every show is important, and so is every performer. This importance is not tied to a performer's notoriety, musical taste, or ability to sell tickets - rather, this importance is inherent in their desire to speak through their art. Underground also strives to operate on the premise that it is far more rewarding to give our best to as many as possible, rather than to reserve our best for a priveliged few. Underground is based on a Christian worldview which espouses an "economy of grace," as outlined in this document:
The Numbers (Such As They Are)
Because quite a bit of historical data (2007 and previous) was mixed in with other information, it is difficult to extract an accurate picture of exactly what Underground did and did not do in regards to income and costs. However, accurate data is available from 2008 and 2009 (to date). Here is what that data shows, as of this document's creation:
07/26/2008 - 12/31/2008: 43
01/01/2009 - 08/22/2009: 104
Total Income From Performances:
Average Income Per Performance:
Audio Technician's Pay From Performances:
Not shown in this dataset are indirect costs, such as facility rental, utilities, wear and tear on equipment, and expenditures related to miscellaneous costs, such as PRO licensing. These costs have been borne by New Song Presbyterian, and have made Underground possible when it otherwise would not be.
There are two main challenges to New Song Underground's long-term viability:
A) New Song Presbyterian and New Song Underground are in a facility that is rapidly becoming inadequate.
B) New Song Underground's ability to retain professional staff is inadequate.
The facility currently occupied by New Song Presbyterian and New Song Underground is simply becoming inadequate for the church's vision. It is not accessible to those with limited mobility, it is difficult to heat and cool, it is not large enough for multiple groups to use the facilities simultaneously, and it does not have the flexibility to allow for a real diversity of outreach projects. Purely from the New Song Underground side, the building's electrical system is inadequate, it can be difficult to load-in performing groups with heavy or bulky equipment, the ceilings are too low, and the building transmits an undesirable amount of sound to the surrounding neighborhood.
Although a capital campaign for funding a new building is currently underway, there is some question as to how large a strain Underground will put on the rest of the project, financially speaking. The build-out (and equipment) costs for a "theater" type space with long term quality and viability will be quite high, and the costs to sustain such a facility will also be significantly higher than what is experienced now.
In terms of retaining staff, Underground is primarily fueled by a personal commitment to its vision. This commitment has made it possible for Underground to have the services of a professional audio technician, full time, for substantially less than the federal minimum wage would require for an ordinary worker. This has been perfectly acceptable to all parties in the past, but this situation can not continue indefinitely.
New Song Underground needs gifts of all sizes. Small gifts make everyday impacts, whereas major gifts ensure Underground's long term viability. Also, gifts need not be restricted to New Song Underground. A gift made simply to New Song Presbyterian helps to reduce Underground's impact on New Song's budget, and a restricted gift to the building fund also has an implicitly positive impact upon Underground.
Some examples of gift impacts, in powers of 10:
$10 - Can replace a mic cable or other interconnect.
$100 - A new or replacement microphone, or several cables.
$1000 - Upgrades or replacements for audio processors, or for lighting instruments and control. Significant amount towards down payment on new facility.
$10,000 - Extensive upgrades to audio or lighting, or two-thirds of audio technician's salary for 2010. Substantial amount towards down payment on new facility.
$100,000 - Substantial cost of audio and lighting refit for new facility, or audio technician's salary and raises for five years. Significant amount towards total new facility purchase price.
$1,000,000 - Cost of world-class audio and lighting refit for new facility, or audio technician's salary and raises for 24 years. Substantial amount towards total new facility purchase price.
If you would like to discuss Underground in more detail, I would be very happy to do so. You may contact me via Myspace at http://www.myspace.com/newsongunderground, by phone at 801.638.7975, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org (the character trailing dmaland is the number zero).
If you would like to discuss the particulars of making a gift, such as tax deductions, New Song Presbyterian's mission in general, or other such topics, it is best to speak with a New Song Presbyterian staff member directly (all gifts, whether restricted or not, must be made to New Song Presbyterian Church). The office can be reached at 801.326.4239, or you can e-mail one of the staff members listed in the contact info section of http://newsong.org/.
Thank you very much for reading this case for support, and considering it.