MusicOregon announced Monday that it has awarded $57,000 in grant funding to 18 local musicians and bands to help pay for non-performance endeavors such as recording, production of vinyl records and music videos, promotional efforts, and more.

This is the second round of grants from the nonprofit's Echo Fund. While MusicOregon is focused on empowering independent professional music creators across the state, the Echo Fund drew applications from just Portland Metro and Vancouver areas.

Recipients include:

  • Cay is Okay, an indie rock trio led by queer, non-binary Filipinx-American musician Cay Davis. Their most recent release—2020’s Waxing Gibbous EP—kind of sounds like Liz Phair fronting Pavement. Cay is Okay will use the funds for album recording, art and distribution.

  • Laryssa Birdseye, a rising singer and songwriter whose new album Chrysalis, released in September, blends emotionally raw lyrics about loss and grief with a sleek, upbeat electro-pop sound. Birdseye will use the funds for vinyl duplication.

  • Hope & Failure, the trio of Rhone Lachner, Mikey Romay and Sam Forst, who are planning to record their first album soon. Video of live performances reveal a sound that veers back and forth from slow, quiet doom-folk to heavy, cathartic metal. Hope & Failure will use the funds for album recording and mixing.

  • Aaron Nigel Smith, a Grammy nominee and 20-year educator who has performed all over the world and is best known for his reggae music for kids. In an interview, Smith said he has been writing songs for a new EP that blends reggae, folk, and country for about a year, and the grant has allowed him to hire collaborators and start recording. "These funds enable me to pay local engineers and musicians respectable fees for their creative work. It feels great to pay it forward," he told the Mercury. "It’s rare to see opportunities for funding that support independent musicians. I’m excited to see intentional work to help Portland creatives. It makes me feel seen and motivates me to do the best I can to make the funders and city proud."

"If you look at the winners, it’s different genres, different ages, different colors, different genders," said MusicOregon's executive director  Meara McLaughlin. "It’s different identities and different cultures, and that’s the story of Portland music.”

McLaughlin went on to explain that thanks to the symbiotic relationship between curious, supportive consumers and adventurous musicians, Portland’s music scene has no “anchor genre” like folk in Austin, country in Nashville or jazz in New Orleans. Instead, she described the city as “an incredible sonic incubator,” where musicians feel free to experiment and take risks.

For that to continue to happen, however, musicians must be able to make ends meet in Portland, where disappearing revenue streams—sales of recorded music have dried up thanks to streaming platforms like Spotify that pay very little—make it increasingly difficult to afford the city's rising cost of living.

MusicOregon is trying to bridge the gap with its Echo Fund, raised by the organization’s annual Portland Music Month initiative: a monthly, multi-venue festival held in January. After the first Portland Music Month in 2022 was largely canceled because of the Omicron COVID-19 virus variant surge, the 2023 version raised enough to support the 18 winning artists—out of 217 applications submitted.

If this model of fundraising and grant-giving feels new to the music world that's because popular music has historically been overlooked by the kinds of institutions that help sustain important sectors of society when money is tight, McLaughlin said.

“Musicians were considered too commercial to receive arts and culture grants, but they’re also considered too creative to get business grants, even though they are, in fact, creative entrepreneurs,” she explained. “So they’ve been left in the middle.”

Not only does that hurt working musicians, it doesn’t accurately reflect their value to a city like Portland, which has 30 percent more live music venues than Austin and twice as many as Nashville. "Constance Bracewell, the executive director of the Old Church, said that our music sector is like a coral reef: Everything else relies on it," McLaughlin said.

“Businesses have succeeded here in the past 15 years because we have a certain lifestyle (and music) is a huge part of that, but it hasn’t been supported,” she continued. “So we created MusicOregon to support creative empowerment in a way that says, 'These are culture creators and they are important. They needed to be sustained or … they will stop what they’re doing or they’ll move away to find a creative life somewhere else.'"

Find a full list of the recipients here, and below:

Cay is Okay, for album recording, art, and distribution

Blair Borax, for album art and duplication

Maita, for music video production

DaMiNo, for mastering and vinyl record pressing

Aaron Nigel Smith, for recording

Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters, for  branding and music video

Olivia Lyon, for album recording, mixing, and mastering

This is Blew, for recording and professional photos

Juan-Felipe BZ, for album mixing and mastering

Rachel Brashear, for album recording

Caicedo, for album recording, mixing, and producing

Laryssa Birdseye, for album vinyl duplication

Big Wyno, for recording and music video production

Childspeak, for album production

SLiM and the Get Down, for music video production

KADREN, for merch production and promotional commercial

Dirt Twins, for music video production

Hope & Failure, for album recording and mixing