Early 2021 was a prosperous time for Austin Richard Post, better known as the “Sunflower” singer Post Malone.
While many of his entertainment-industry colleagues struggled to pay rent under the pandemic-era lockdowns that decimated live music in the US, Post bought a 9,000-square-foot ski chalet in Park City, Utah, which had been listed for $11.5 million, in an all-cash transaction that February.
By May, he'd bought an industrial space in a Salt Lake City suburb that had been listed for $1.45 million. There, he opened a commercial forge to craft knives and swords, “as a hobby,” Post's representative told the city's planning commission.
But later that year, a corporation controlled by Post successfully applied for a $10 million grant from a taxpayer-funded federal program intended to provide “emergency assistance” to help struggling arts groups recover from the pandemic.
The program, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, was a lifeline for the live-entertainment business. Administered by the Small Business Administration, it doled out $14.5 billion to institutions like movie theaters, ballets, operas, talent agents, performing-arts venues, and museums. Unlike the Paycheck Protection Program, which many venues didn't qualify for, the Shuttered Venue program was a grant, not a loan. Qualified applicants were eligible for up to $10 million with no obligation to repay it.