Legacy ATX: A Little History
Why Create Legacy ATX?
As a retired musician, I’ve often thought about the types of resources and experiences that would have helped me accelerate my growth – not only as a performer/artist but as a professional in the music business. Making a “living” as a musician is more difficult than it’s ever been. The pay scale for live gigs has remained stagnant for 30 years and with the advent of streaming services, revenue from publishing has plummeted.
To achieve success you not only need to be musically proficient, you must be media and technology savvy. Many of the musicians I know play regularly with 3 – 5 bands. Some have full time jobs or teach part-time, while a few have built revenue streams through licensing/composing music for brands, film and video games. It’s a real grind and too many young musicians have very little knowledge about what it truly takes to flourish. They don’t understand that you can be famous and still be broke or unknown by the masses and doing quite well.
In addition to a lack of insight into the music business, too many young musicians have a limited understanding of our collective musical lineage. Products of the easy bake media landscape, there seems to be little reward for self-reflection or humility. Understanding that you are part of a tradition and a community that extends back hundreds of years provides young musicians with a sense of place and purpose. It also sets the precedent for sustained growth, not just in the making of music but in the making of fulfilling lives.
Legacy ATX 1.0
Four years ago, with all of the ideas in mind, I decided to launch the Music Legacy Project. I got together with my old friend Jonathan “Chaka” Mahone (Riders Against the Storm) and we came up with a plan. Chaka, who is half of the award winning hip hop duo, Riders Against the Storm, is a long time collaborator with e4 Youth. He helped shape our Employability Curriculum and has continued to play an integral role in our growth over the past six years. His group, Riders Against the Storm, has been voted Austin Band of the Year 3 years in a row and I have witnessed first hand the constant work he continues to put in every day. Chaka is also an accomplished visual artist and has leveraged that work into a fashion brand, NefrFreshr (Never Fresher). Chaka also really knows how to connect with young artists in profound ways.
For the first incarnation of project, we decided to work with a group of students to produce what would turn out to be an original 5 song EP, Legacy ATX. Every Saturday, for sixteen weeks, Chaka, along with support from our Education Director, Humberto Perez, led a talented group of youth through the songwriting process and eventually into a world class recording studio. We brought in cultural historians, speakers on financial literacy, successful musicians, talent buyers and others to help inform our process. We called in favors with our Grammy Award winning friends, Adrian Quesada and Greg Gonzalez (Grupo Fantasma, Brownout) to serve as rhythm section players and ended up making a record of which we are quite proud. Although we didn’t sell many CDs, we inspired television producer Rakeda Ervin, to write and direct a beautiful music video that has become one of the thematic centerpieces of our latest project VR Remix Parties.
Legacy ATX 1.1
Upon completing year one of that process, we wrestled with the idea of what exactly we were doing? Was Legacy ATX becoming a music school? A band? A record label? An all-star music group? In year two, we decided to make another EP. We recorded 7 songs and eventually released the single On To Something along with a cutting edge 360 music video featuring the song. Again, we were proud of the work they did. However, the focus seemed to be shifting from the collective project to the whims and tastes of one or two members. It was about that time that we decided to leave the idea of making albums or promoting a group behind.
Developing your musical identity and skill sets are challenging because it is such a personal process. There’s a delicate balance between developing musical competency and personal expression. Over the course of two years, we witnessed an immense amount of growth in the program participants. They formed fundamental relationships with their peers and professionals that are still flourishing today. They gained confidence and became better musicians and better people. By removing the specter of “putting out a record”, we hoped to really increase the focus on personal and professional development for the participants.
Legacy ATX 2.0
So, in 2018 we pivoted our approach to focus on helping each emerging artist do a deep dive into their personal brands and goal setting. Collaboration is still encouraged but we recognized that not everyone is at the same point in their journey. Some artists may benefit more from focusing on songwriting while others may want to learn more about performing, music publishing, booking gigs and/or touring. This individualized approach relieves the pressure of having to change your ambitions to fit other folks’ preferences.
Rather than putting out a record, we were able to provide supplemental support for participating artists and showcase some of their work. We worked with AYUMA to produce a music video for one of his original songs and a series of promos. At the end of the process, all of the participants presented about what they learned and pitched their future plans to a panel of journalists, music promoters and musicians in order to win cash and prizes.
Now, as we move into year 4, we feel as though we’re settling into a more ideal framework for this program to flourish in the years to come. We’re forming new partnerships with orgs like Anthropos Arts to provide private instruction for our participants. We are developing stronger relationships with local band and choir programs so that we can source more talent. We’re now paying youth stipends and continuing to reach out to the broader music and business communities to develop more infrastructure for emerging musical artists.