It’s been said musicians don’t have insurance—they host benefits. It was the tough truth in this quip that led Red Dirt musicians and fans to create an Oklahoma music safety net in 2012 they called Red Dirt Relief Fund. Soon after RDRF was granted 501(c)3 non-profit status, it became clear it couldn’t just serve Red Dirt musicians but would need to serve the entire community of music industry professionals in Oklahoma. Today, any person living in Oklahoma who has worked in the music industry for at least 5 years is eligible for aid.
RDRF operates an Emergency Assistance Fund that provides individual grants to help music people recover from accidents, cancer treatment, medical emergencies, natural disasters, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and other unavoidable emergencies that prevent them from making music in our communities. These grants typically cover immediate living expenses and medical bills.
In March of 2020 as COVID-19 shutdowns began, RDRF launched the first of what would become three COVID-19 Grant programs to support the changing needs of music professionals throughout the pandemic. RDRF witnessed firsthand the catastrophic impact the pandemic was having on the livelihood of music professionals, and grants were made to recipients working in every musical genre, job and geography statewide—from writing, singing and producing to engineering, tour managing and sound engineering. They were granted to to members of the Tulsa Symphony, the OKC Philharmonic, worship musicians, renowned hip hop artists, award-winning singer songwriters and musicians who have played or worked Cain’s Ballroom, Tower Theater, Chesapeake Arena, BOK Center, Tulsa PAC and more. COVID-19 may be the greatest crisis the music industry has ever faced—it affected everyone working in music in our state universally, and RDRF tried to serve them equally.
Recognizing that many critical situations music people face are related to lack of health care, RDRF has developed relationships with both physical and mental health service providers to offer discounted rates to Oklahoma music people. RDRF has enlisted an independent insurance broker to provide free counseling to music professionals to connect with low cost/free health insurance. Executive Director Katie Dale also attended the inaugural meeting of Organizations Facilitating Health Care Coverage & Access for Musicians in Washington D.C. in February 2020 alongside leading industry organizations like MusiCares, The Actor’s Fund, HAAM, SMASH and Music Health Alliance to employ national best practices at RDRF.
By design, the all-volunteer RDRF Board of Directors is comprised of musicians and related industry professionals. This also helps RDRF maintain relevance, and builds trust in the arts community. Additionally, RDRF contributes to Oklahoma arts by producing two annual music festivals featuring all-Oklahoma lineups and production teams: Bob Childers Gypsy Café every April in Stillwater, and Tom Skinner Skyline Music Fest (Skinnerfest) every October in Tulsa. RDRF also conducts the Jimmy LaFave Songwriting Contest each spring in connection with Gypsy Café and recognizes an Oklahoma music professional who impacts the state’s music community through mentorship in the spirit of legendary Oklahoma songwriter, Bob Childers, through their annual Restless Spirit Award. Previous award recipients include Jimmy LaFave, Brandon Jenkins, Randy Crouch and Steve Ripley.
Since its inception in 2012, RDRF has granted more than $640,000 to 800+ Oklahoma music professionals in need.
Red Dirt Relief Fund is operated by an all-volunteer Board of representing communities statewide.
The Red Dirt Relief Fund, Inc., is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that has provided more than $640,000 to 800+ music people in 39 Oklahoma cities and towns since its inception in 2012. Grant recipients’ situations range from loss of work due to COVID-19, accidents, chronic illness or medical emergencies to loss of property due to fire and tornado.