Nicolás Jaar Launches a Grant Program to Uplift Emerging Electronic Musicians
Few musical genres capture the dizzying creative potential and sobering commercial realities of today’s moment quite like electronic music. With fast-evolving technologies regularly opening up new possibilities in sound, aspiring artists have vast, evergrowing resources with which to prod the limits of music. But concurrent realities abound, such as the often-prohibitive costs of digital tools, industry hyperfixation on the most dominant trends (see: the ever-bloating corpse of lo-fi beats playlists, or the number of times the word hyperpop entered a conversation in 2020), and federal disinterest in funding young musicians in any category beyond classical, opera, or jazz. Emerging electronic artists—especially those experimentally inclined, or coming from outside places of privilege—face steep barriers.
With these challenges in mind, the Rising Artist Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to foster creative and professional growth for diverse, emerging American musical artists, recently partnered with acclaimed electronic composer and producer Nicolás Jaar and his record label, Other People, to launch the grant program Overtones. The initiative gives eight young, unsigned electronic artists residing in Los Angeles access to two workshops per week over the course of two months—led by Jaar and other music-industry guests—centered around digital audio production, nurturing creativity, and navigating the business. (This year’s finalists were notified last month.) Held from mid-July to early September, the workshops will culminate in a to-be-announced local showcase in November. Also on offer is a $4,375 stipend, plus funds to cover health care and any other obstacles, such as transportation or child-care costs, that might prevent participation.
The program is in keeping with Jaar’s own musical ethos: His tracks mirror the creative spirit the program hopes to foster, and he has long been vocal about the importance of music’s political dimension—not necessarily in terms of didactic sloganism, but more so in its ability to maintain the possibility for new and challenging cultural forces in an industry that too often skews toward homogenization. Overtones constitutes the second grant program Jaar is supporting through his label: Earlier this year, he also established Ladridos, a similar educational opportunity for Spanish-speaking electronic music creators made in partnership with Chilean electronic music publication Grieta.
Jaar’s projects and the work of the Rising Artists Foundation share the goal of providing valuable tools to musicians who lack them, or who wouldn’t have access to them otherwise. While helping a handful of rising artists won’t necessarily disrupt the sea of talent that remains overlooked or underequipped, it’s an admirable and important step toward ensuring that mold-breaking voices have the means and the confidence to carry on.