The music community has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus outbreak, with the cancellation or postponement of festivals large and small, entire concert tours and individual performances nationwide.
In response, the Recording Academy and its philanthropic arm, the MusiCares Foundation, on Tuesday announced a new $2 million fund earmarked to aid musicians affected by the COVID-19 health crisis, from those who have been infected and need treatment to those who have lost work and may be struggling to meet rent or mortgage payments, health insurance costs or other financial burdens.
It’s one of a number of resources that have cropped up as the coronavirus threat has broadened. The long-running nonprofit Sweet Relief musicians’ relief organization also has established a COVID-19 support fund for affected musicians and others who work in the music industry. The Los Angeles chapter of the American Federation of Musicians union, Local 47, also has set up an emergency relief fund for the union’s members.
As separate-but-related nonprofit organizations, the Recording Academy and MusiCares each have contributed $1 million to start the relief fund and invited others to donate at the new COVID-19 Relief Fund website. Musicians in need are being advised to check in at MusiCares’ site.
Music helps us through our toughest times. We can help music creators get through theirs. Spread the word about @MusiCares #COVID19 relief services or consider making a donation to help those in need. https://t.co/GlgbkQA2fc pic.twitter.com/7j05oiP4ed— MusiCares (@MusiCares) March 17, 2020
“I can never remember a time when this many people in general, let alone music creatives, have been facing such loss of income and loss of opportunity,” academy board chairman and interim CEO Harvey Mason Jr. told The Times on Tuesday.
“It has hit our community especially hard — not just the musicians who create but all the people working around them: sound engineers, mixers, the cartage guys [who handle instruments and equipment] and so many others,” he said. “All of them do work that is predicated on having a show to perform.”
Mason said he’s hearing from members of the music community from all strata, “from people losing income because of canceled shows and tours to people who are sick or caring for people who have coronavirus.”
In a statement issued Tuesday, MusiCares chair Steve Boom said, “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.”
My friend Chris Martin did a lovely little concert from home today. I'll be doing one tomorrow at 1pm Pacific time. See you soon. We'll try to get through this together! #TogetherAtHome https://t.co/YZ8Y1W8esc— John Legend (@johnlegend) March 16, 2020
Mason said he expects to announce additional donations and partners in the COVID-19 fund later this week.
“We’ve raised a considerable amount beyond the initial $2 million,” he said. “This problem is not going away in the next two weeks.”
Sweet Relief, which was launched in 1993 by singer-songwriter Victoria Williams, also has created a coronavirus assistance fund page.
“Sweet Relief is here to provide immediate assistance and we have created this donor-directed fund with a limited amount of funds available to be used specifically for musicians and music industry workers affected by the Coronavirus,” the organization stated on its website. “Funds raised will go towards medical expenses, lodging, clothing, food and other vital living expenses to those impacted due to sickness or loss of work.”
Applicants must meet a series of criteria specified on the same site.
For musicians’ union members, emergency relief is available “for members who have lost revenued due to work stoppages from the coronavirus COVID-19 emergency.” The organization noted that “funds are limited” and asked that “only musicians that are suffering hardship” should apply. Applications for relief can be submitted here.
The separate Music Fund of Los Angeles nonprofit likewise is inviting L.A. musicians in need to apply for emergency relief. The fund was created in 2007 “to provide financial assistance to musicians who are unable to work due to sudden illness, poverty or other distress, provide scholarships to students of music, and to sponsor youth music programs and live music events throughout Los Angeles.”
A plethora of resources and other assistance measures has been pulled together at COVID-19 Freelance Artist Resource website, which points freelancers working in the creative arts to financial and other assistance.
Additionally, a grassroots lobbying campaign is underway at Change.org, the petition website, urging federal lawmakers to provide support to the event industry that employs so many musicians and music industry personnel. As of Tuesday afternoon, a “COVID-19 Federal Aid Package for Events Industry” petition had logged more than 240,000 signatures toward its goal of 300,000 signees.
In the meantime, Recording Academy chairman Mason pointed to a number of ways musicians are already adapting to challenging circumstances.
“Some artists are performing [streamed over social media] from their homes or their personal studios. People are doing it to help heal, and to bring people together. If we can combine that with a fund-raising appeal, then we can take that back to the people who most need help right now.”