LIHU‘E — During the early stages of COVID-19, Dr. Addison Bulosan intuitively knew musicians specializing in live performance would struggle to adapt to the changing landscape of the post-COVID economy.
Bulosan, president of the Rice Street Business Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, decided to find a way to help struggling musicians play live music and get paid for their efforts.
This idea started with Frank Cruz of Cruz Control and the association wanting to help local businesses and musicians at the same time.
The group has been doing nightly live music since May 14, with the final performance being held last Sunday on the Rice Street Business Association Facebook page.
He didn’t have a flashy name for the performance. It was simply titled “Nightly Live Music” to attract music lovers of all genres.
The musicians they supported included: Cruz Control (Frank Cruzi, Kaniho, Jojo Tangalin), Na Pali Coasters (Seth Womble, Tom Green, Genoa Starr, Jim Huneryeger), Rydge Nuesca, Nakz, Kyle LaBenz/Nikole Keahiolalo/Kekai Chock, Kawaiola Yaris, Oiwi (Kawaiola Yaris, John Mahi, Bronson Aiwohi), Kawai Pascua, Jordan Parongao (JP), John Rivera/Darren Kiyotsuka, Cory Mira, Lenny Breeze and Pono Nero.
Keeping things moving
With the majority of the service industry shut down, it also prevented local musicians, many whom make a living off live performances at smaller venues, bars and restaurants, from being able to work.
Utilizing grants from the County of Kaua‘i along with grants and funding from several other sources, they were able to pay the musicians for the two hours of live performances on Facebook Live.
The average cost to operate the nightly music is $7,000 a month. All donations go towards paying musicians to perform.
“We saw during the start (of the pandemic) it’s going to be a long challenge for people who weren’t going to be thought of like musicians and artists,” Bulosan said. “Musicians who were out of work since March felt emotionally overwhelmed. This was a little music break, and allowed our community to stay connected when everything in life was going down the drain.”
Generating positive feedback
The Facebook Live feed that played music from all genres generated 1,200 to 3,000 views when they embedded the videos into their Facebook page.
With grant money running out, Bulosan made a difficult decision to make last Sunday’s performance the group’s last.
Now, lacking any private funding, Bulosan decided to end the 21-week run of performances because they can no longer pay the musicians to perform.
“We just kept it going all the way up until now,” Bulosan said. “Our choice is to bring this back and find a donor who can help us, and hopefully get our economy turned around so that people can get back to work as soon as possible.”
Having this avenue to perform has helped the morale of many musicians whose only income is based on live performances.
Bulosan doesn’t want to close the live performance down, but he doesn’t want musicians to work for free.
“This is the worst timing, and I am hesitant to close, but we can’t find any more money to support local businesses for a nonprofit event,” Bulosan said. “I just can’t (not pay them), especially with the prolonged economical effect COVID-19 pandemic is having, with many local businesses on the verge of closing. I don’t want to end it, but they’re just isn’t any more money.”
The donors included County of Kaua‘i Office Economic Development Business Development Grant, Hawai‘i Arts Alliance National Endowment of Arts Our Town Grant and Tasting Kaua‘i Company. Private donors included The Specific Chiropractic Centers Kaua‘i, Kong Radio Group, Spectrum Kaua‘i and Kaua‘i Government Employees Federal Credit Union.
“This nightly music has been a godsend for all of our followers on Facebook,” Bulosan said.
The RSBA board consists of President Addison Bulosan; Vice President Alan Satta; Secretary Koa Yukimura; Treasurer Ashly Poblacion; and board members Larry Feinstein, Dana Hazleton, Denise Roberts, Roger Jacobs and Karen Ono.
To make donations to keep this going, contact RSBA, firstname.lastname@example.org or 652-1442.