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The Ottobar, storied Baltimore music venue, launching local playlist to raise money during pandemic

Exterior of The Ottobar, one of many music venues in Baltimore affected by closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. April 15, 2020.
Exterior of The Ottobar, one of many music venues in Baltimore affected by closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. April 15, 2020. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

The coronavirus pandemic forced many music and show venues to close or cancel many of their planned activities, losing out on much-needed revenue along the way. The Ottobar in Charles Village, one such venue with a 23-year history in Baltimore, is now trying to support both itself and the music scene it helps sustain with an upcoming fundraiser playlist.

Called “No Stagediving,” the playlist will feature 50 or more artists that are local, have gotten their start at the Ottobar or are otherwise associated with the venue, owner Tecla Tesnau said. The venue announced the fundraiser in a promotional email and on social media Tuesday.

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Tesnau noted that this playlist is the third portion of a fundraising effort that the independent venue has undertaken since the pandemic began. A Gofundme crowdsourcing campaign has raised over $141,000, and the venue is still in the midst of a raffle and art auction for which Tesnau has not yet tallied final fundraising amounts. She described these ventures as successful, and hoped the new fundraiser would build on this momentum while supporting the local music scene.

“Given the success of the first two portions of the campaign, I wanted to be able to give something back to the musical community,” she said. “We’re donating a huge portion of the proceeds back to the musicians that are giving us songs for the musical compilation."

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Proceeds from the playlist will support both the Ottobar and musicians affected by lost show and money-generating opportunities.

Tesnau declined to reveal any featured artists by name, saying instead that the full list and release details would likely be made public at some point in November. That said, the playlist will likely be sold as a digital download and will represent the diversity of genres in the Baltimore music scene.

“I don’t think any single individual just likes indie, or just likes metal, or just likes country, or whatever,” Tesnau explained. “And maybe I’m wrong here, but I like to think that most people are pretty diverse in their musical tastes, and this city is a diverse place, so we want to make sure that we have artists that are representative of every single genre.”

Local visual artist Devin Watson created the promotional imagery for the fundraiser, which Tesnau said would possibly be used in merchandising for the fundraiser as well. Given all the interest that the venue’s fundraising efforts have generated, she said she felt “extremely hopeful” about surviving the damage the pandemic wrought in lost revenue.

“One of my goals, really, in my very tiny, little minuscule way, is to try to give something, bring a little bit of a ray of sunshine to an otherwise, what could be a very dark place in people’s lives right now,” she said.

The Ottobar continues to serve patrons and host limited programs, including a show this weekend with comedian Chris Gethard, on its outdoor patio.

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