Local Current Blog

Ten holiday gifts that give back to Minnesota’s music communities

A touch of seasonal color outside of Icehouse in Minneapolis, December 2020. (Jay Gabler/MPR)

It’s no secret that 2020 has been a rough year, and one that’s been particularly hard on the music industry. But while we get ready to bid 2020 adieu, there are still plenty of opportunities to support local music. We’ve put together a list of ten holiday gifts for music lovers that give back to Minnesota’s venues and artists.

While you scheme a giving plan and dream of sugar plums, check out our December music programming and special seasonal playlist.

You can give the gift of live music

While concerts may be on pause, you can still give the gift of live music. Cedar-Riverside’s Part Wolf is selling gift cards on their website that can be cashed in later for music, beer, or mixed drinks. 

Support Memory Lanes, the south Minneapolis bowling alley that doubles as a music venue, by purchasing a gift card from their website. Or give someone the gift of three venues in one by buying a gift card that can be used at the Sheridan Room, the 331 Club, and the Amsterdam Bar and Hall.

Whatever your favorite music venue might be, chances are there’s a way you can give your favorite music lover something to look forward to when venues reopen. Even Minnesota’s biggest music festival is selling early 2021 tickets at a discount.

You can support the artists behind The Art of the Revolution

More than a dozen Minnesota musicians, engineers, videographers, and artists collaborated to create The Art of the Revolution, a “community led and politically charged” album. The album features original songs from Queen Drea, the Smokes, Seaberg & the Black Velvet Punks, and more, in response to the uprising in Minneapolis and St. Paul against police misconduct and towards investing in community safety initiatives. 

The Art of the Revolution is available to preorder on Bandcamp as a CD or digital download, along with die-cut buttons and stickers. 70% of the proceeds support the album’s featured artists, who have lost income due to COVID-19 while also “assisting during a revolution and uprising centered on police reform.” The other 30% of album proceeds will support a charitable foundation of each band’s choice.  

You can grab a compilation from a local coffee shop

Five Watt Coffee and Caydence Records & Coffee teamed up to support local musicians by creating With Love, Your Coffeeshop Vol: 1. The compilation album features over a dozen songs from local artists, and all profits go to the Twin Cities Music Community Trust, which supports music industry workers who have lost income due to COVID-19. The album is available as both vinyl and CD, with a different track list on each format. You can purchase your copy at your local Five Watt location, or in-store and online from Caydence Records & Coffee.

You can add some new titles to your holiday reading list

Looking for a new book to curl up with during the holidays? Check out our Rock and Roll Book Club for reviews of some of our favorite music books. (Also, join Rock and Roll Book Club host Jay Gabler on Instagram live this Thursday, Dec. 17, at 11 a.m. for a conversation about winter reads with avid bookworms Laura Schultz and Colin Scharf of Good Night Gold Dust.)

If local history is your thing, you can preorder Jamie Schumacher’s latest book Butterflies & tall Bikes. The book paints a portrait of Minneapolis’ West Bank through interviews with the neighborhood’s residents and business owners including former co-owner of the Triple Rock Social Club Erik Funk, and Palmer’s Bar owner Tony Zaccardi.

You can also dig into Dave Pirner’s verses in Loud Fast Words, a book that compiles Soul Asylum lyrics from throughout the band’s career.

You can invest in the future of Minneapolis’s music scene

Auntie’s will be a venue in Minneapolis “that presents performance, knowledge, liberation through the arts centering the BIPOC + LBGTQA+ community.” The venue is co-founded by DJ Keezy and Sophia Eris “to create and reclaim space for BIPOC women and LGBTQIA+ people in all facets of the music industry.” You can help build Auntie’s by donating on their website. While you’re there, check out their “Purse Candy” Spotify playlists and livestreamed events.

You can ring in the holiday season with live music

Treat yourself (or someone else) to tickets for a livestreamed concert. A number of local venues like have filled their calendars with livestreamed events, like the Hook & Ladder’s #HookStreams concert series, or Charlie Parr’s virtual January residency at First Avenue. 

You can also wave 2020 goodbye with Gully Boys, Nur-D, Bugsy, and NATL PARK SRVC on Twitch during the “URL NYE” livestream. The event will be donation-based, and a portion of proceeds will go towards ZACAH, a grassroots organization dedicated to the collection and redistribution of wealth within Minnesota’s community.

Looking for more online events? Check out The Current’s Virtual Gig List to find upcoming livestreams.

You can learn to DJ or make your own beats

It’s possible to give someone the experience of making their own beats this holiday season by enrolling in a class at Slam Academy. The Minneapolis campus offers classes in Ableton Live, Sound Design, DJing, Mixing and Mastering, and more. And if you’re looking for a way to kill time at home, Slam Academy’s classes are still taking place online during COVID-19.

If you want to spread the gift of music-making even further, you can donate to Beatz By Girlz Minnesota, which empowers marginalized youth and adults through classes in music production. Donations to Beatz By Girlz also support its parent organization, She Rock She Rock, which offers music classes and camps for women, trans and nonbinary folks.

You can give back to the organizations that keep Minnesota’s music running

The Cedar Cultural Center is both a non-profit and a staple of the Minneapolis music scene, hosting bands from the Twin Cities and across the world. While the Cedar’s doors have been closed due to COVID-19, you can support future concerts by donating to the venue.

There’s also a Twin Cities Music Trust, organized to support “night staff, door staff, bartenders, security, stage crews, tour managers, merch sellers, photographers, local musicians,” and other members of the local music community affected by the pandemic.

Springboard for the Arts is a valuable hub for artists as it offers career consultations, workshops on financial planning, and information on how to find health insurance as a creative. Springboard’s Emergency Relief Fund has already raised over $1 million to support Minnesota artists through COVID-19, and you can contribute to the fund online

The Minnesota Music Coalition supports musicians in all genres across the state by offering panels and discussions, organizing events like the MN Music Summit, and connecting musicians with the resources they need. You can donate to the MMC on their website.

You can sport merch from your favorite venues

One of the hardest hits for music fans in 2020 has been missing out on concerts. Buying merch is an easy way to support the venues you love, while checking off your holiday shopping lists. 

Just a few ideas: send some love to First Avenue by perusing their large collection of merch, which includes face masks, holiday sweaters, beanies, and bucket hats. (There’s also some First Ave merch at Paisley Park’s Mall of America pop-up.) Bryant Lake Bowl’s website offers t-shirts, pint glasses, and patches that sport the logo of the Uptown restaurant, bowling alley, and theater. You can stay warm in a beanie or sweatshirt from Icehouse or grab a sweatshirt and baseball cap from the Dakota.

You can raise a glass to your neighborhood bars and restaurants

Before the pandemic, Du Nord Craft Spirits regularly served up craft cocktails and hosted live music in its south Minneapolis cocktail bar. You can support Du Nord by purchasing their spirits from their website or at your local liquor store. In June 2020, Du Nord owners Chris and Shanelle Montana also started the Du Nord Foundation, which offers food relief, support to minority owned businesses, and economic aid to communities of color. You can contribute to the Du Nord Foundation online.

Restaurants and bars, many of which are also music venues (and/or employ local musicians), typically have gift cards available. Plan for a future night out at Aster Cafe by buying a gift card to cash in later for music tickets, dinner, or drinks. You can also buy a hoodie and t-shirt from Mortimer’s to wear to the bar when shows return.