The third month of the 21st century’s “roaring twenties” was supposed to be filled with euphonic events and musical celebrations. Instead, the world found itself in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hundreds of tours and festivals have now been canceled as the industry-wide shutdown pushes further into the year. Thousands of musicians, venues, promoters, tour staff, and event industry workers are now facing an indefinite loss of work as we take care of our prioritized health and safety. Most of these workers depend on the live events to sustain their work, which is often gig-based and doesn’t offer a salary, paid sick time, or health insurance.
Even as we jokingly sing Phish‘s “Down With Disease”, we clearly, are not down with this disease. We need live music now more than ever, and our dedicated musicians are stuck in a rut of not being able to step on stage. So what do we do? Thankfully, the music industry is already coming together to support all people whose livelihoods evaporated as we attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Here are just a few of the organizations taking steps to help artists and industry professionals during these uncertain times.
New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA)
In response to the continuing local economic impact, projected losses of millions of dollars, and the postponement of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) started a relief fund to meet the needs of live events economy workers who have been directly impacted via loss of income. NOLABA is committing $100,000 to initiate the fund to help support the 8% New Orleans residents that work in the industry, encouraging business leaders, philanthropies, and New Orleans residents to contribute to the fundraising goal of $500,000.
NOLABA’s relief fund will help ensure that the community of New Orleans will be supported through these economic trials while advocating for additional resources as the need arises.
New Orleans live events industry workers and musicians can now apply for up to a $1000 award size here with qualifying criteria and requirements here.
The Music Fund of Los Angeles
Like New Orleans, Los Angeles is a hub of live music events and home to thousands of music industry professionals. As California finds itself among the hardest-hit areas by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Music Fund of Los Angeles has established an Emergency Relief Fund for AFM Local members who have lost revenue due to work shortages. This fund will help assist members who work for employers covered by a Local 47 contract or collective bargaining agreement. Members in need can apply here for up to a $150 grant for up to two claimed employers.
To help raise awareness of just how many musicians are affected by the pandemic, music streaming subscription service Bandcamp is stepping up their game to provide support to the musicians that count on Bandcamp as a method of revenue. Along with encouraging fans to directly financially support bands and artists by buying songs, donating, and purchasing merchandise, Bandcamp is also waiving their revenue share on sales this Friday, March 20th. All money that is spent on Bandcamp starting on Friday will immediately go into the pockets of the bands and artists within 24-48 hours. Even leaving a small tip and a note of positive encouragement is much appreciated by any group and artist during this time. For more information, visit Bandcamp Daily here.
Recording Academy & MusiCares
The Recording Academy and its charitable foundation, MusiCares, have established the COVID-19 Relief Fund to assist professionals in the music industry affected by the global pandemic and cancellation of live music events. Both organizations have made initial donations $1 million each and are rolling out Recording Academy fundraising chapters in local communities.
MusiCares chair Steve Boom said in a statement,
The music industry is built on the work of musicians, artists, and music professionals. It is in times like these that the industry needs to come together to support those who are struggling, particularly those who rely on touring incomes to survive. We know this fund will need to be significant. We will not be able to do it alone, and that’s why we are asking the entire music community including labels, streaming services, and anyone who is able to join us in this important effort. We’re all in when the good times roll, and it’s important that we’re all in when times are tough, too.
Sweet Relief Musicians Fund
Since 1994, the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund has assisted all types of career musicians and music industry professionals who are struggling financially while facing illness, disability, or age-related problems. Along with representing musicians in all genres, Sweet Relief has assisted musicians with medical living expenses, including insurance premiums, prescriptions, medical treatment, surgeries, housing, food, and utility costs during times of need.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sweet Relief is taking active added steps to further support and provide assistance to the affected music community. Sweet Relief has created a Donor-Directed Fund with specific amounts of funds available to be used for musicians and music industry workers directly impacted by the global pandemic and mass cancellations. Funds raised will go towards medical expenses, lodging, clothing, food, and other vital expenses to those affected due to sickness or loss of work. For more information or to apply, click here.
A grassroots Change.org petition lobbying campaign urging federal lawmakers to provide support to the event industry has gained enormous traction in the last few days. As of Tuesday, the COVID-19 Federal Aid Package For Events Industry Petition received more than 240,000 signatures toward its goal of 300,000 signees.
The petition urges federal lawmakers to provide emergency Medicaid health insurance, an additional $200 billion in low-interest federally-backed business liquidity loans, $100 billion in Employee Retention Grants to avoid widespread layoffs, the ability to submit canceled contracts as loss of income on 2020 taxes, the Families First coronavirus Response Act to include 1099 self-employed individuals, apply for employment insurance, and ability to get disability sick pay for musicians dealing with the crisis. For more information and to sign the petition, visit here.
American Federation Of Musicians (AFM)
AFM is calling for immediate action from Congress to provide economic relief including expanding unemployment benefits and the immediate postponement of evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut-offs. AFM is also angling for unemployment insurance for partial wage replacement payments for eligible workers in the live events industry. For more information, visit AFM’s resource page here. To apply for financial aid through AFM’s Metrillo Memorial Fund, click here.
Equal Sound Corona Relief Fund
Equal Sound strives to introduce live music fans to new music by breaking down the traditional boundaries of music genres. The organization’s Corona Relief Fund assists musicians who have lost income due to a canceled show amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Musicians can fill out the application to receive a grant and provide proof of a concert cancellation. For more information and to apply, click here.
Amid all the tour and festival cancellations, the world is now expected to stay quarantined without our usual nightly outings to see live music. How in the world are we going to survive this? Technology has emerged as a respite from this crisis, as live streams are now more prevalent than ever. 11E1even and Nugs.net have teamed up to bring us a loaded “couch tour festival,” Live From Out There. The two organizations will provide a steady flow of content during our quarantined nights. Fans can expect full sets, special programming, first-time collaborations, and more from the comfort of their homes. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and Goose kicked off the Live From Out Here streams last week, while SunSquabi and Holly Bowling have started this week’s couch tour. Big Gigantic, Oteil Burbridge, Eric Krasno, Aqueous, Twiddle, Ghost Light, and more are projected to premiere some streamed content to fans over the coming weeks.
The music industry’s mental health hub Backline is here to support musicians and professionals in the music industry now more than ever. With a mission to connect music industry workers and their families with a trusted network of mental health and wellness providers, Backline has helped dozens of musicians and workers obtain mental health resources for depression, anxiety, substance abuse, grief, and general health & wellness in the fast-paced industry.
Backline is partnering up with Tour Health Research Initiative Vnion (THRIV) to create a support group, Come Together: COVID-19 Crisis, to assist all music industry workers in the wake of mass cancellations and loss of income.
Backline Co-Founder and Clinical Director Zack Borer and THRIV Co-Founder Dr. Chayim Newman hosted two webinars earlier this week for support meetings with industry production workers, crew members, artists, and artist teams. Now is the time for all workers in the music industry to come together and support each other. For more information, visit the Backline website.
Founded by a group of musicians in 2012, AirGigs hopes to provide the music community with new possibilities and opportunities via remote collaboration from over 150 different countries.
Offering a vast array of services, including job postings for session work, audio engineering/mixing, and lessons, AirGigs allows music professionals the platform to connect their talents to a worldwide network of songwriters, producers, and content creators from the comfort of their own homes. The innovative online platform was designed to give artists and professionals a space to create individualized service pages to offer their expertise while simultaneously promoting their talents to a wide range of creators. The platform is also open to professionals of all career levels, from Grammy Award-winners to some of today’s top emerging artists.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, AirGigs is rolling out live performances via the company’s Facebook page by way of webcast, which allows musicians to accept donations and receive 100% of the proceeds. The platform will also create a series of resources on their blog that will outline opportunities and advice for musicians seeking new ways to stay productive and working in the midst of the crisis. Prior to the pandemic, AirGigs collected 10% of all profits earned through the platform. During this global pandemic, however, artists who withdraw $250 or more at a time from their sales, will receive a two percent cash bonus.
For more information, visit their website.
The one-stop solution for music licensing, rights administration, supervision, production and distribution, Songtradr is committed to help support artists during the COVID-19 pandemic and will be offering free distribution of services for the next six months. Artists will have access to free, unlimited uploads for each release through all major streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, along with full control of their music rights and receive 100% royalties. Songradr will also be giving their share of any new licensing transactions directly to musicians for the next month until April 18th. Read their full statement here, and visit their website for more information.
The Payback, The Sound Mind Collective,
Color Red Launch Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund
The New Mastersounds‘ guitarist and bandleader Eddie Roberts has partnered his organization, The Payback, with The Sound Mind Collective and Color Red to launch the Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund. The fund will benefit musicians who face economic hardships as a result of the virtual shutdown of all live events due to the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.
While The Payback initially focused on combating youth and families experiencing homelessness in cities across the U.S., Roberts and the rest of his partners in the organization, along with The Soul Mind Collective and Color Red, saw it necessary to shift the focus towards supporting those who may be struggling to make rent and mortgage payments and cover immediate housing necessities. Eligible applicants will receive microgrants ranging from $100-$500 for housing, food, medical care, and other necessities.
Visit the Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund website for more information, to donate, and to apply for assistance. The organization will review applications in the order they are received.
The auctions platform that allows creators and artists to sell a portion of their royalties for a lump sum is reducing the commissions from the sales on their site from 15% to 10% over the next 90 days to directly benefit artists who sell on their platform. Right now, while touring isn’t an option, selling some of their royalties can be a real life line for artists.
Additionally, Royalty Exchange is calling on the entire music industry to help artists right now by cutting the time it takes to pay artists in half, and lowering revenue shares to be more artist-beneficial at this time. For more information, visit their statement on their website.
Since March 27th, the music streaming and download site geared towards audiophiles, launched “Gimme Shelter” and is waiving it’s revenue share on all download sales, passing 100% of all revenue to the artists.
“With hats off to Bandcamp for leading the way with this brilliantly simple idea, Qobuz will similarly put its profit from download sales right back into the pipeline to help sustain the creators whose artistry makes a service like ours possible,” Qobuz USA Managing Director Dan Mackta said.
For more information, visit the Quobuz website.
The iconic, American-made instrument brand Gibson has announced “HomeMade Sessions” to support musicians and partners to use the healing powers of music in the safe spaces of our homes to help unite fans and musicians around the globe. Artist performances, featured interviews, and intimate conversations from Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer musicians all around the world can be watched and shared via Gibson TV, YouTube, and Gibson’s respected social media channels.
To further spread love and light during these tough times impacting the music industry as a whole, Gibson TV is partnering with MusicCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund. Gibson is encouraging the use of social tags #HomeMadeMusic and #GibsonHomeMade to ignite the conversation on social media and support musicians and the music industry during this time. For more information, visit Gibson’s website.
The music industry is one of the major sectors often overlooked when crisis strikes and mass layoffs and losses of income occur. If you’re a musician or music industry professional, know that you’re not alone in these weird, confusing times. Consider joining open forums for music industry professionals, like the COVID-19 Music Production Response Group, to start the conversation on the impact of COVID-19 and help others in this time of crisis. Through supporting artists by listening to more of their music for increased streams, buying merchandise, or merely acknowledging the fact that thousands of workers are now displaced with work, being a live music fan should keep you busy during this time of self-quarantining.
Even venues are feeling the effect of having to postpone or cancel shows that have been booked months in advance, and closing their doors to patrons for months on end. Consider donating to some of our friends and live music professionals impacted by the cancellations, like Denver’s Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom or Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater. If live music fans come together to support our favorite musicians and venues, we’ll come back stronger and celebrate the first step we all take back at a concert, some eight weeks from now hopefully. For more information on how to receive state and federal support as a musician and music industry professional, visit Billboard‘s Resource Guide.