How a grant program is helping keep independent music alive in Oregon

By Elizabeth Castillo (OPB)
Dec. 25, 2023 2 p.m.

The Echo Fund is intended to help independent working musicians in Oregon by helping pay for creative, non-performance projects

Vicco González, the creator of the band Caicedo and a Portland musician, is a recipient of the Echo Fund.

Vicco González, the creator of the band Caicedo and a Portland musician, is a recipient of the Echo Fund.

courtesy of Vicco González

Vicco González is a vocalist and guitarist of the Portland-based band Caicedo. He formed the band a decade ago in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico. He describes the group’s music as an eclectic combination of many genres, including pop and Brazilian tropicália music.


“It’s a mix, like putting different genres in a blender,” he said.

The band, which performed at Portland’s music venue Mississippi Studios earlier this month, plans to professionally record an album at a Portland studio thanks to a grant it received from the Echo Fund.

The program is intended to help working musicians in Oregon by helping pay for creative, non-performance projects. The proposals can range from music production and promotion, to distribution of physical albums. MusicOregon, a nonprofit that supports independent and contemporary music in the state, administers the Echo Fund.

“Changes in the music industry have really left musicians behind,” said Meara McLaughlin, the executive director of MusicOregon and partner organization MusicPortland. “We really identified the need for a different approach and we created the Echo Fund.”

Related: Echo Fund fosters independent music in Oregon

In October, the Echo Fund announced 18 projects had been awarded grants, with funding proposals ranging from professionally recorded albums to headshots and music videos. In addition to helping musicians in the state with career development, the fund also aims to promote the culture of independent music in Oregon. According to McLaughlin, traditional funding sources for arts and culture can overlook working musicians or some musical acts.


“I think cultural funding was developed at a time when what is unfortunately called ‘commercial music’ or ‘for-profit music’ had ways to sustain itself,” she said. “You could record music, sell the media, do gigs, get paid. And so those systems for cultural support weren’t designed with these kinds of musicians and creators in mind.”

McLaughlin thinks government agencies aren’t recognizing the economic benefits local, live music can bring to cities like Portland.

“Portland will lose its music center, it will lose its heart, if we don’t create cultural change from fans and businesses and governments,” she said. “It’s worthy and we need to create new methods to make sure that it remains in Portland.”

McLaughlin said that other cities invest in music culture and Portland should too.

“Nashville is ‘Music City,’ because they decided to be, and the government and the tourism sector really leaned into it,” she said. “Austin is the ‘live music capital of the world,’ because they branded themselves so, and then invested in it. And I think we need, as a city, to acknowledge that music built this city.”

Related: Watch opbmusic’s most-viewed performances

For González, the creator of Caicedo, he’s grateful to be a part of Portland’s music scene.

“It’s very, very welcoming,” he said. “It’s getting to know people that are actually devoted to music and to their craft. Being involved with this community is very humbling and beautiful.”

Vicco González and Meara McLaughlin spoke to “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller about the Echo Fund. Listen to the full conversation: