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Soda Bar scores one of only two CA Small Venue Grants

Employee takeover earns rewards for City Heights club

Soda Bar: an anchor of American culture gets recognized.
Soda Bar: an anchor of American culture gets recognized.

California measures approximately 163,696 square miles, and it’s home to more than 39.5 million souls. Total number of places to see music? Search me. But I’m betting a thousand would just be a start. And out of all of them, San Diego’s proud-but-humble Soda Bar, age 14, got plucked from among the masses as one of 18 venues nationwide — and one of only two in California — to be awarded one of the spring round of Small Venue Grants from the Live Music Society in New York City. San Francisco jazz club The Black Cat was the only other California winner.

Place

Soda Bar

3615 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego

The Society’s Executive Director, Cat Henry, says that, while she can’t go into the specifics of the jury process, “the venue’s philosophy and programming is wonderfully eclectic, and it’s a beloved venue with a great story. Soda Bar is an example of why small venues are important, not only as economic engines for their communities but as anchors of American culture. The fact that longtime staffers Angie Ollman and Cory Stier became owners shows the kind of dedication and passion of music venue workers. We’re talking about lifelong music lovers who’ve often played and toured in bands themselves, and want to help build the scene for the next generation.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

The Live Music Society itself, she explains, “was founded by Pete Muller, an American businessman and singer-songwriter who developed a deep appreciation for small music venues while touring with his band in 2019. The goal has always been to offer small venues the support they need to thrive, such as extending financial and technical assistance in areas like audience outreach, sound design, and fundraising. Once the pandemic eases, the organization will refocus efforts on a broader range of resources and support. There’s a new sense of optimism as we head into spring, but many venue owners are still fighting to keep their doors open and recovery may take some time.”

Each round of grants is adjudicated by an independent jury made up of music industry professionals, including touring musicians, talent buyers, agents, and tour production staff. However, final selection of grantees is approved by a committee of the LMS board. The number of awards given out annually varies. “In Covid times, I don’t think we can say there has been a typical year. However, since October 2020, we are proud to have contributed in a small way to the survival of 126 venues in 34 states, with funding of over $2.3 million. We plan another round later in 2022, and as feedback and new information is received, the grant will naturally evolve.”

Henry vows that the Live Music Society will continue to work with venues through the end of virus days. “We know the erratic and nonlinear nature of pandemic recovery has resulted in continuing uncertainty and financial instability. Venues have faced enormous challenges to reopen safely and protect their staff and customers. They continue to face canceled performances and attendance below pre-pandemic levels. We also know that [live] gigs have been missed, and can have a cathartic effect on those who attend them. Nothing compares to seeing your favorite band play live in person. We’ll continue to seek ways to help keep this experience vital and stable.”

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Soda Bar: an anchor of American culture gets recognized.
Soda Bar: an anchor of American culture gets recognized.

California measures approximately 163,696 square miles, and it’s home to more than 39.5 million souls. Total number of places to see music? Search me. But I’m betting a thousand would just be a start. And out of all of them, San Diego’s proud-but-humble Soda Bar, age 14, got plucked from among the masses as one of 18 venues nationwide — and one of only two in California — to be awarded one of the spring round of Small Venue Grants from the Live Music Society in New York City. San Francisco jazz club The Black Cat was the only other California winner.

Place

Soda Bar

3615 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego

The Society’s Executive Director, Cat Henry, says that, while she can’t go into the specifics of the jury process, “the venue’s philosophy and programming is wonderfully eclectic, and it’s a beloved venue with a great story. Soda Bar is an example of why small venues are important, not only as economic engines for their communities but as anchors of American culture. The fact that longtime staffers Angie Ollman and Cory Stier became owners shows the kind of dedication and passion of music venue workers. We’re talking about lifelong music lovers who’ve often played and toured in bands themselves, and want to help build the scene for the next generation.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

The Live Music Society itself, she explains, “was founded by Pete Muller, an American businessman and singer-songwriter who developed a deep appreciation for small music venues while touring with his band in 2019. The goal has always been to offer small venues the support they need to thrive, such as extending financial and technical assistance in areas like audience outreach, sound design, and fundraising. Once the pandemic eases, the organization will refocus efforts on a broader range of resources and support. There’s a new sense of optimism as we head into spring, but many venue owners are still fighting to keep their doors open and recovery may take some time.”

Each round of grants is adjudicated by an independent jury made up of music industry professionals, including touring musicians, talent buyers, agents, and tour production staff. However, final selection of grantees is approved by a committee of the LMS board. The number of awards given out annually varies. “In Covid times, I don’t think we can say there has been a typical year. However, since October 2020, we are proud to have contributed in a small way to the survival of 126 venues in 34 states, with funding of over $2.3 million. We plan another round later in 2022, and as feedback and new information is received, the grant will naturally evolve.”

Henry vows that the Live Music Society will continue to work with venues through the end of virus days. “We know the erratic and nonlinear nature of pandemic recovery has resulted in continuing uncertainty and financial instability. Venues have faced enormous challenges to reopen safely and protect their staff and customers. They continue to face canceled performances and attendance below pre-pandemic levels. We also know that [live] gigs have been missed, and can have a cathartic effect on those who attend them. Nothing compares to seeing your favorite band play live in person. We’ll continue to seek ways to help keep this experience vital and stable.”

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