By Bernard Baur
She’s been called the “Queen of Metal” and “Metal Mama.” In truth, the most accurate moniker for Ondrea Faillace may be one that simply describes who she is: a “musician’s best friend.” More than just a patron of the arts and ardent fan of head banging music, Faillace is one of those rare individuals who actually steps up and helps struggling artists realize their dreams.
“Music has always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember,” she relates. A self-described “wild child,” Faillace gravitated to intense forms of music, hard rock and heavy metal. “That genre is the best expression of rebellion and emotion for me,” she recounts, “and there are even studies that note its physiological effects."
Not content with simply being a fan, Faillace’s passion would eventually lead her to form a non-profit organization, called the Starving Musicians Program, and a few years later, cause her to purchase a club, The Joint in West Los Angeles, to support it. Why would anyone go to all that trouble and expense? According to the Faillace herself, “I had to do it. I didn’t like the way musicians were being treated, especially in the heavy rock genres.”
Faillace’s background prepared her perfectly for her new mission. Back East, she worked for financial firms that put her in charge of their charitable contributions. There, she discovered that most non-profits were run by MSW’s (Master of Social Work), which inspired her to earn her own Master’s Degree in Forensic Social Work. She worked for both the public sector as a Victim’s Advocate on Domestic Violence and Child Abuse cases, and the private sector where she was a group therapist for rehabilitation centers and mental health programs. That experience became a prime motivator for her current endeavors.
In 2007, Faillace formed the Charis Charitable Foundation (a 501c3 non-profit) and spent several years supporting other charities and social causes. In 2011, she formed the Starving Musicians Program (SMP) in response to the needs of young rock and metal musicians in the Los Angeles area who, she felt, were being exploited by venues and the music industry. SMP addresses various issues in an effort to prevent and intervene in cycles of poverty, substance abuse, homelessness and mental disabilities. The program also provides free rehearsal space, bus passes, clothing and equipment donations.
At almost every SMP meeting, however, one issue was prominent. It was the “Pay to Play” policy (euphemistically called Pre-Sales) that is prevalent in many L.A. and Hollywood clubs. Faillace found that practice appalling. “These kids can hardly pay their rent or feed themselves. Charging them hundreds of dollars to play a 30 minute set is outrageous.” That outrage led to a momentous decision. In 2012, Faillace decided to buy a club so her kids could have a place to play, without having to pay for the privilege.
The club (The Joint) gave Faillace additional options to help SMP’s growing membership. It became a meeting place for members and their friends, and provided employment, free meals and performance opportunities to SMP members. “The club became their home away from home,” she says. “I wanted it to be an artist-friendly venue, a safe place where musicians could pursue their dreams.” Faillace prohibited any “Pay to Play” policy, established an eclectic booking approach, offered a generous door share and scheduled showcases for her SMP artists.
With the help of SMP many young artists thrived. “Our members are able to pay their rent, stay off the streets and pursue their music careers because their basic needs, such as food, clothing, bus passes and a rehearsal space, are met,” she declares.
But, it’s tough running a club in Southern California. Many venues have come and gone due to the fickle nature of the city’s fans and increased competition in the entertainment sector. Nonetheless, Faillace meets each challenge head on. “You just keep trying different things,” she says. Currently, the venue showcases a variety of music, everything from R&B to punk. Some shows are free while others have a cover, but the majority of the door goes to the artists.
Additionally, Faillace knew that one of the keys to success is promotion. In fact, she wanted to set up as many promotional vehicles as possible. So last year she became co-owner of RDSN, an Internet Radio Network, and manager of The Razor Station with Andy Ford, which broadcasts live every week from the club.
“We play all kinds of metal,” she explains. “And many SMP artists get their music showcased on the program.” Although it’s been airing for only a few months, The Razor’s listenership is increasing, most notably after it linked with iTunes Radio.
Faillace’s numerous activities attracted service organizations, non-profits and charities that wanted to work with her. “Often, we’ll help them produce events and host them at The Joint. I like to encourage and support good causes,” she affirms.
That unique outlook is what drives her and keeps her going. Even with all the milestones she reached and accomplishments she achieved, Ondrea Faillace is far from finished. She will continue acting as an advocate and supporter of artists, and plans to expand SMP to other genres beyond hard rock and heavy metal.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m part of a revolution,” she reveals. “A revolution to change the music scene and how it treats artists. My mission is to encourage the pursuance of dreams, respect all ideas and support the passions and creativity of young artists. And I’m going to do whatever I can to help them. I would love for all artists to be able to showcase their talent and grow professionally.”