There are many great things about making music for a living, even if you’re not going multi-platinum. You get to play music that means a lot to you at bars, clubs, and concert halls all over the country, and you get to wear whatever you want every day. But if you’re a local or regional musician who lives life on tour, health insurance is often a pipe dream, and often there's nowhere to turn in case of illness or injury. And that’s where C.H.A.R.M. comes in.
C.H.A.R.M. (Charleston Healthcare Alliance for Regional Musicians) is a program run by a non-profit multi-media education incubator organization called This is Noteworthy. “It started about five years ago when we were working with Music Cares and other types of healthcare organizations for musicians around the U.S.,” says C.H.A.R.M. founder Becca Finley. “The biggest need for up and coming musicians is insurance premium subsidies; most healthcare organizations don’t subsidize payments. They take care of catastrophic needs if someone is injured. But that’s after the fact versus preventative.”
The program requires the musicians applying to meet several criteria: They must play 50 or more shows per year, they must make under $30,000 annually, and they can’t live more than 90 miles from Charleston. “We established a lottery system,” Finley says, “and however much money we raise in a year, whatever musicians have talked to us and qualify, they go in a hat, and we draw their names out. They meet with an insurance agent that we work with, and the insurance agent walks them through the process, they pick a plan with the agent, and then we set up a bank account and it’s drafted out to pay for their health insurance for year.”
The program has only been around for a few years, but it’s been an effective tool for various musicians around Charleston. SUSTO singer, guitarist, and songwriter Justin Osborne says that the program has been great for him. “There was always a looming fear of getting sick or being injured and not being covered. At this stage in my career, there’s not a lot of money and healthcare was another expense I just couldn’t afford. Now, I can record and tour without worry because I know I’m covered.”
The program has found that fundraising is the best way to come up with the money to pay the musicians’ premiums, and that’s where the Venues With A Vision concert series comes in. A series of shows at venues like Awendaw Green, Palmetto Brewing, Cooper River Brewing Co., and the Royal American as well as events like the Fourth-Annual Rockabillique in Park Circle will feature over 30 performers (including Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, Matadero, Little Lesley & the Bloodshots, She Returns From War, Fireside Collective, and Haley Mae Campbell), and there is a suggested donation between $5-$10, depending on the venue. Proceeds will go directly to C.H.A.R.M.
“Our premise behind this is that the musicians who are playing in these venues don’t on the whole, making a living wage," Finley says. "The venues don’t have the money to pay for these musicians’ health insurance, but they do care about the musicians. They wanted a way to be able to focus a couple of times a year on getting people to come out to a benefit to take care of the people who make this music.”
Sunday's Cooperfest event at Cooper River Brewing is the closest to Finley’s heart this time around, because of the man it’s dedicated to — it's organized in memory of Bradley Cooper, co-founder of TheFix.fm and Kinetic Hi-Fi. “He died a couple of years ago in a car accident, and he had some mental health issues," Finley says. "If he’d had health insurance, that might not have been the case. So that particular event is in honor of him, and there will be musicians speaking about him and what he contributed to the community.”
Here's a list of events coming up you can attend to contribute to C.H.A.R.M. If you believe in the cause but can't come out, donate here.
Venues With A Vision Concert Week
Now 'til Thurs. Nov. 17
Tonight: Palmetto Brewing | Bullets Benign, Green Thieves, Jess Jess Y'all, Patrick Tobias
Sat. Nov. 12: Park Circle | Annual Rockabillique w/ Lucky Tubb & The Modern Day Troubadours, Dirty Bourbon River Show, Dex Romweber, The Go Devils,Little Lesley & The Bloodshots, Rockabilly Kitty Rose,Tied & Tasseled Fetish Cabaret, Micah Schnabel (of Two Cow Garage), Arleigh & Prisha, Avi Jacobs (Sings Hank Williams Sr), The Royal Tinfoil, Erin Johns, Jordan Igoe (Sings Patsy Cline),Whiskey Diablo, DJ Rockaphilly, Mr Bonetangles, Anna Lynn Ferris Hot Jazz Dance Club.
Sat. Nov. 12: The Royal American | Matadero, Elim Bolt, ET Anderson
Sun. Nov. 13: Cooper Brewing Co | Cooperfest w/ Mike Freund Band, Holy Smokes & the Godforsaken Rollers, Deepend, Marsh and the Mello's, Benjamin Starr, She Returns from War, Haley Mae Campbell
Thurs. Nov. 17: Charleston Music Hall | Drivin' N Cryin', Patrick Davis & His Midnight Choir