7 ways to help musicians and the music industry during the coronavirus outbreak

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Bootleg Theater Photo: Justin Higuchi (Creative Commons)

With festivals, tours and concerts cancelled across the world in an effort to halt the spreading coronavirus, the music world has been devastated on an unprecedented scale. From artists to bookers to promoters to backstage crews, live performances are the backbone of an industry built largely on independent contractors with few labor protections and little recourse in sight. 

But we do have community—and now is the time to band together to help support the hardworking creatives always there to inspire us and bring us joy. Whether you’re an artist, a fan, or somewhere in between, we’ve outlined some direct actions you can take right now to help keep the music alive. 

For Music Fans

Buy Albums and Merch 

Going on day three of the same baggy T-shirt? Reorganizing your record shelf? Treat yourself—and your favorite artists—by grabbing some fresh music and merch. Besides touring, merch and album sales are the primary way artists earn a living today, and it’s a great way to show off your great taste. Make sure your dollar goes as far as possible by buying direct from the artist’s website or sites like Bandcamp, which may also wave their cut in lieu of ensuring musicians get maximum proceeds. Last week, a Bandcamp campaign led fans to buy nearly 800,000, or $4.3 million worth of music and merch, according to the company. If you’re not able to or aren’t sure how to shop direct, many artists are easy to reach on social media to help point you in the best direction. 

Donate

If you don’t need more *stuff,* consider donating the cost of a refunded show ticket or album—or more—directly to an artist through their Venmo, PayPal or Patreon listed on their social accounts. These funds can help resonate beyond the band itself, with artists using the extra cash to help offset lost expenses from tour cancellations as well as paying crews who are now out of work.  

Share Music 

Lucky for us, there’s still plenty of great music getting released every day. Artists often rely on touring to help promote new material, but you can help signal boost those tunes by sharing on social media, making playlists, tuning into your favorite radio station and joining in on livestream sessions. You don’t have to have a huge following to make an impact—just one share can help win over a new fan and widen an artist’s reach far beyond your social circle. 

Support Local Venues 

Many independent venues are using GoFundMe and other fundraising platforms to help ensure their hardworking staff can get by while they’re forced to close their doors. Consider donating the cost of your ticket refund or an additional amount to your favorite haunt like Zebulon, The Hi Hat, Teragram Ballroom/Moroccan Lounge, Gold-Diggers, Bootleg Theater and more through donation links on their social media and GoFundMe accounts.  

For the Music Industry 

Follow and Support Legislation 

The $100 billion coronavirus aid bill signed into law March 18 will offer some relief for self-employed workers, providing a tax credit of up to two weeks of paid sick leave at average pay, or up to 12 weeks of paid family leave at 67% of normal pay. There’s another $1.8 trillion aid package being shaped that doesn’t yet specify support for gig workers; you can make your voice heard by writing to your congressperson and following the lobbying activities of groups like the Live Events Coalition and the Music Arts Coalition.  

Track Your Losses

It may be some time until we see clear solutions for recouping expenses, but until then you can stay prepared by keeping detailed accounts of how COVID-19 is impacting your income. That can include cancellations, emergency travel expenses, crew fees, lost ticket and merch sales and more. The State of California has also compiled resources, including disaster assistance, for small businesses economically impacted by coronavirus.

Apply for Relief 

From small venues to major organizations, groups throughout the music community are organizing relief funds to help support workers across the industry. On the national level, the American Guild of Musical Artists Relief Fund, MusiCares, NOMAD Fundraiser for the Touring Crew, SAG-AFTRA and Tour Support are just a few of the organizations offering financial and mental health resources to those impacted by COVID-19. In California, in addition to applying for unemployment benefits and special enrollment for Covered California, the LA Mayor’s Economic Relief Package is offering no-fee microloans for small businesses. L.A. members of the American Federation of Music can also apply for some lost revenue compensation through the Music Fund of Los Angeles Coronavirus Emergency Relief Fund. An expansive list of more national and local resources can also be found here