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NY, New York, Jan. 20 - /EWire/ -- The nation's leading supporter of free public concerts is making some big changes to meet the challenges of a new age. As of the first of this month, the nonprofit Music Performance Trust Funds, the country's largest sponsor of free live music, will be known simply as "The Music Performance Fund," as it redoubles its efforts to build relationships with major foundations and attract corporate co-sponsors for future programs.

Odds are, you've never heard of this venerable organization, by either name. Noel B. Berman, the Fund's trustee and executive director, cheerfully concedes the MPF may be "the best-kept secret in the world of performing arts sponsorship."

But it's a safe bet that you've been to a few of the many free public concerts the MPF has sponsored -- maybe even a few dozen.

This Times Square-based educational trust, established in 1948 by the recording industry and the American Federation of Musicians, pays for thousands of live, admission-free musical performances all over the U.S. and Canada. Last year alone it spent more than $15 million to sponsor 16,000 events in towns and cities from the Rio Grande to the Arctic Circle, including performances and classes in schools, nursing homes, and hospitals as well as concerts of every kind. With more than a million and a half performances to its credit over the past 57 years, the MPF is in fact the largest funder of free music, and the single largest employer of musicians, in the country and probably the world.

Despite its low profile, the MPF has traditionally enjoyed an enviable degree of financial security, receiving a small royalty on every record, tape, or CD sold in the U.S. or Canada. Recently, though, the Fund has been hit hard by rampant music piracy and by the huge popularity of legitimate digital downloading, which is not yet covered by the industry-union agreement that created and finances it. The MPF's latest annual report shows that revenues from recording-industry sources fell from $7.9 million to $5.4 million between 2002 and 2003. Funds available for this year's programs are down by nearly 40 percent.

In response, Mr. Berman and his colleagues are moving quickly to reinvent and revitalize the organization, strengthening its educational and "Emerging Artists" programs, planning a year-end fundraiser gala, and adopting a better name (" 'The Recording Industries Music Performance Trust Funds' was a real tongue-twister," Mr. Berman says) which will be used together with a new explanatory tagline, "Enriching lives through music."

These and other changes will, hopefully, put the group on a solid new financial footing and pave the way for future growth. "These are difficult times, and many organizations with much greater resources than ours are hunkering down," Mr. Berman says. "But the free live music we provide is an essential public service, and our contribution is needed now more than ever. This is a time to be bringing new resources -- the public, the great foundations, and corporate sponsors -- into the music performance arena."

Corporate co-sponsorships are expected to be a big part of this. Working through the musicians' union locals, the MPF was able to leverage its resources by finding local and national co-sponsors for virtually all its 2002-03 performances. "Businesses of all kinds are finding that sponsoring free live music is an easy and effective way to build prestige and goodwill," Mr. Berman says. "Co-sponsorships now account for as much as 60 percent of the MPF's total budget."

For expert guidance on governance and strategic planning, and support in the quest for new funding sources, Mr. Berman has recruited an advisory board of arts and business luminaries. Members include conductor Charles Ansbacher, founder of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, who President Clinton described as "the unofficial ambassador of America's music," and Gloria Messinger, Esq., who served for many years as CEO and Managing Director of ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

Also serving on the MPF's advisory board are Sanford H. Fisher, a Peabody Award-winning television producer; Prof. Michael Mooney, President of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon; financial consultant and former banker Edward I. Riegelhaupt; arts and cultural management consultant Dory Vanderhoof; and Maury Yeston, composer-lyricist of "Titanic," "Grand Hotel," and other Broadway hits.

Mr. Berman himself is a veteran broadcasting and labor attorney who spent 28 years at CBS and currently serves on the board of the Henry Mancini Institute. To further strengthen his hand he recently retained a New York-based consultant to help create and implement the MPF's first-ever development program and will soon launch a stepped-up public awareness effort to better introduce the organization and its unique mission to foundations, potential corporate co-sponsors, and the music-loving public.

About the MPF

The Music Performance Fund (MPF), formerly the Music Performance Trust Funds, is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt educational trust, established in 1948 by the U.S. and Canadian recording industry and the American Federation of Musicians to fund live, admission-free public musical performances. Administered by an independent Trustee and headquartered in New York City, the MPF brings professional, high-quality live music to many millions of people throughout the United States and Canada every year. For further information, including a state-by-state schedule of free musical performances, readers are invited to visit the MPF online at .

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For more information:

Serena Siegfried, 1-212-873-1944



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