Keeping Music in Time During COVID-19
By: Ava Roche
*Refer to the sections below the article for lists of resources for musicians and music industry professionals nationwide and state-by-state. Many resources listed below include options to donate or apply for aid; if you wish to donate, click on the links provided for information. Check local listings for charities and relief funds in your area.
Update 4/19/20: We have added more resources to this list.
The novel Coronavirus has rattled the country and the world. Beyond the drastic transformations in the lives of people across the planet, the global economy has nearly collapsed. Daily output in the United States alone has decreased by 29%. To provide some perspective, annual output in the United States fell 26% between 1929 and 1933, some of the worst years of the Great Depression. [i]
The music industry has been hit hard; as of April 3, 41 states have placed statewide shelter-in-place orders, with four states imposing orders in some counties.[ii] At least 311 million people across the United States are staying at home. With tours, concerts, and festivals canceled, the music industry risks losing billions of dollars in profits. Independent artists and live industry employees (sound engineers, tour managers, crewmembers) without the security blanket of fame, stability, or savings are struggling. Luckily, there are some resources available to those groups, and some methods in which performers can continue to monetize their work.
MusiCares® COVID-19 Relief Fund
The Recording Academy® and its affiliated charity, MusiCares® recently established a COVID-19 Relief Fund to assist musicians and industry professionals negatively impacted by the Coronavirus. The Academy and the charity, which has donated millions of dollars to musicians and music industry professionals since its founding in 1989, launched the relief fund with a $2 million donation to the program.[iii] Major players in the music industry have donated to the fund as well. Amazon Music, Spotify, Tidal, Warner Music Group and more have all donated to the fund, which, along with private donations, has raised millions of dollars on top of the initial $2 million.[iv] [v]
Harvey Mason Jr., interim president/CEO of the Recording Academy®, stated that the fund will allocate funds to “people that really need help…these are not the artists that are going on worldwide tours on jets.” [vi] For more information on the program and the application process, click here.
The Business of Live Streaming
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC, the live music industry was projected to generate $28.8 billion in 2020 – Coronavirus canceled that. [vii] Independent artists and major touring companies alike may lose billions of dollars due to the pandemic. Not only that, but the fan-artist connection fostered at concerts will be lost. How, then, can artists ensure that they are connecting with audiences and making money through this time?
Live streaming is nothing new – artists and companies have long been using the technology to reach otherwise unreachable audiences. Consider the 2017 virtual reality concert put on by Iranian artist Ash Koosha and VR company, The Wave VR. Due to President Donald Trump’s travel bans – bans which restricted Iranian, Iraqi, Libyan, Somalian, Sudanese, Syrian, and Yemeni citizens’ travel into the United States – Ash Koosha was unable to travel to the U.S. to perform. By partnering with The Wave VR, the artist was able to perform virtually, reaching a worldwide audience.[viii]
Independent artists have utilized live streaming technology as well. While their digital performances may not be as immersive and tech-forward as those demonstrated by VR companies like The Wave VR, artists have found ways to utilize the technology to interact with fans and reach new audiences.
Twitch lends itself to building strong relationships with fans. Digital strategist Karen Allen explains that “artists on Twitch are finding that by playing live and talking directly with viewers, they can build a very real and engaged fan base that will subscribe to their channels and tip them for playing covers and originals.” Not only does building a fan base on the platform present long-term benefits to musicians, but fans on Twitch – due to their feeling of intimacy with artists – are more likely to interact with artists in other ways, whether it’s tipping during a live stream or buying merchandise. Allen describes the platform as “Patreon and YouTube rolled together, only in real-time and with actual fan relationships taking root.” [ix]
In the past, performers needed to first qualify for “affiliate status” to monetize on Twitch. Requirements included broadcasting a minimum of 500 minutes in a 30 day period and having at least 50 followers.[x] However, due to the impact, the novel Coronavirus has had on the music industry, SoundCloud and Bandsintown have partnered with Twitch to allow artists to monetize on the platform without meeting those requirements.
SoundCloud Pro, SoundCloud Premier, and Repost by SoundCloud artists are all able to qualify for the affiliate program quickly. Artists are required to create a Twitch account, then apply for affiliate status.[xi][xii] The application form is linked to SoundCloud’s blog post here; artists should refer to the post before applying.
Bandsintown artists with 2000 trackers or more are eligible to apply for affiliate status on Twitch as well.[xiii] Refer to Bandsintown’s announcement for more information, as well as the application.
Beyond the monetization systems built into live-streaming platforms, there are many other ways artists can make money using these platforms. Before the pandemic, Los Angeles based singer-songwriter, Clare Means, increased her income by live-streaming performances on another popular live streaming platform, Periscope. She linked her website and PayPal links for tips and merch purchases – she was able to accrue thousands of followers on the platform, build a strong relationship with fans (leading to bigger tips), and get well-paying gigs through her following. Clare’s advice to musicians starting on the platform? Live stream consistently, interact with fans, take song requests, and thank fans for tipping and sharing. [xiv]
So, how can artists make themselves competitive on live streaming platforms? First and foremost, as with most other things in an artist’s career, consistency is key. When starting on the platform, performers will benefit from multiple (three or more) unique live streams a week. This will increase an artist’s likelihood of being discovered, whether on the category page for their specific genre, or as part of the algorithm which directs viewers to new videos when another live stream in the same category has concluded. [xv]
The three major live-streaming platforms are Twitch, Periscope, and YouNow. Consider utilizing more than one platform to maximize outreach.
How You Can Help
These are trying times – many are out of work or low on money – but if you are lucky enough to have more than you need, consider donating to the MusiCares relief fund or one of the many charities and funds listed below. If you want to help a specific artist, tuning into independent artists’ live streams and tipping them – even just $5 – can make a huge difference in their day-to-day lives. Share their profiles with friends and family, buy their merchandise, or purchase their albums rather than streaming them. Become active in your community – donate to small, local venues that have been hit hard during this time and continue to support the industry wherever you can. Musicians and music industry professionals are some of the most vulnerable to financial strain; if we are able to, now is the time to support them.
Resources for Musicians and Industry Professionals
- Freelancers Relief Fund: independent workers who have primarily earned income through freelance work can apply for a grant of up to $1000 to cover essentials.
- Equal Sound: apply for relief due to canceled concerts.
- Feeding America: the organization distributes food and meals nationwide through a vast network of food pantries and food banks. They provide an interactive map of Feeding America food banks across the country, so those in need can locate their nearest food bank. Every $1 donated to the organization provides at least 10 meals to families across the nation, so, if you are able, consider donating to the non-profit.
- International Bluegrass Music Association: bluegrass musicians and professionals can apply for grants and loans.
- Jazz Foundation of America: jazz and blues musicians can apply for housing relief, medical care, financial support, etc.
- MusiCares: provides short term financial assistance and other resources to musicians and the music community.
- Music Health Alliance: provides healthcare support services to members of the music industry.
- Musicians Foundation: offers eligible applicants up to $200 in relief.
- New Music Solidarity Fund: an artist-led organization that is granting emergency funds to freelance artists in experimental or improvised music. Eligible applicants may receive grants up to $500.
- Patreon: apply for a grant through Patreon. artists will be selected by a panel of artists and creatives.
- SAG-AFTRA: members can apply to the union’s COVID-19 relief fund.
- S. Small Business Administration: apply for low-interest disaster loans.
- Sweet Relief Musicians Fund: musicians and music industry professionals can apply for immediate assistance through their donor-directed fund. those in need may also create a “peer to peer” campaign through the COVID-19 Fund at Sweet Relief; that campaign will allow those in need to fundraise directly for themselves and others in their area.
- State of California: file for unemployment benefits through the state.
- Covered California: offering extended enrollment for health insurance.
- Los Angeles Regional Food Bank: find or donate food.
- Project Angel Food: the organization delivers healthy meals to feed people impacted by serious illness. If you or a loved one is ill, apply here. You can also apply to donate or volunteer.
- Garrie Vereen Memorial Emergency Relief Fund: provides funds to musicians, crew, venue and bar employees, etc. Apply for relief here, donate here.
- Georgia Department of Labor: apply for unemployment insurance.
- Louisiana Workforce Commission: apply for unemployment insurance.
- The Howlin’ Wolf Den: provides pre-made meals for curbside pickup every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from noon to 2 pm. Affected musicians and service workers can email email@example.com.
- New Orleans Business Alliance: provides grants to gig economy workers.
- Boston Artist Relief Fund: the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture is providing grants of $500 to Boston artists negatively impacted by COVID-19. The fund will end on April 30, 2020.
- The Record Co.: giving small grants up to $200 to applicants who have lost revenue from gigs and events. The deadline is April 30, 2020.
- Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance: apply for unemployment benefits.
- Massachusetts Health Connector: offering extended enrollment for health insurance. The Massachusetts Division of Insurance requires health insurers to cover the cost of testing and treatment related to the Coronavirus – this includes waiving co-pays and deductibles.
- Music Streams Calendar: provides a schedule of upcoming virtual concerts in Massachusetts and New England, as well as providing links to merchandise stores, virtual “tip jars,” etc.
- Lost My Gig NYC: provides opportunities for freelancers in the event industry to request (or donate) financial support and donations for lost gigs.
- New York State of Health: offering extended enrollment for health insurance.
- New York State Department of Labor: apply for unemployment benefits.
Food Bank For New York City: the city’s largest hunger-relief organization distributes food to those in need, especially high-risk residents and those impacted financially. The organization also provides an interactive map with which those in need can connect with soup kitchens and food pantries near them. Find food or donate on the non-profit’s website.
- Stand with Austin Fund: established to support individuals and small businesses impacted by the cancellation of SXSW.
- GoFundMe x Banding Together ATX: raising money for workers in the entertainment industry, ranging from musicians to service workers, to financially support those out of work. Donate here or apply here.
- GoFundMe x Dallas Artist Relief Fund: raising funds to provide resources to low income, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ artists in financial need. Donate here or apply here.
- Housing Opportunities for Musicians and Entertainers (HOME): provides housing opportunities for older musicians and entertainers in Austin.
- I Lost My Gig Austin: provides opportunities for people in the Austin community, especially those impacted by the cancellation of SXSW, to request financial support and donations for lost employment.
- Health Alliance for Austin Musicians: provides access to affordable health care for low-income working musicians – many of whom do not have health insurance. Applicants must live within 50 miles of Austin.
- Texas Workforce Commission: apply for unemployment benefits.
Billboard has provided a running list of resources available to music industry professionals impacted by the pandemic. Refer to this list if your state is not included above.
The Berklee Career Center has also provided a running list of resources available to those who work in the music industry as a whole, as well as members of the Berklee Community.
[i] Mitchell, Josh. “State Shutdowns Have Taken at Least a Quarter of U.S. Economy Offline.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, April 5, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/state-coronavirus-shutdowns-have-taken-29-of-u-s-economy-offline-11586079001.
[ii] Mervosh, Sarah, Denise Lu, and Vanessa Swales. “See Which States and Cities Have Told Residents to Stay at Home.” The New York Times. The New York Times, March 24, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-stay-at-home-order.html.
[iii] Cirisano, Tatiana. “Recording Academy and MusiCares Commit $2M For Coronavirus Relief Fund.” Billboard. Billboard, March 18, 2020. https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/9335788/recording-academy-musicares-coronavirus-relief-fund.
[iv] “Warner Music Group Joins MusiCares’ Coronavirus Relief Fund.” Variety. Variety, March 27, 2020. https://variety.com/2020/music/news/warner-music-group-joins-musicares-coronavirus-relief-fund-1203547402/.
[v] Aswad, Jem. “Spotify, Amazon, YouTube, More Join MusiCares Coronavirus Relief Fund.” Variety. Variety, March 24, 2020. https://variety.com/2020/biz/news/spotify-amazon-youtube-more-join-musicares-coronavirus-relief-fund-1203543479/.
[vi] Cirisano, Tatiana. “Recording Academy and MusiCares Commit $2M For Coronavirus Relief Fund.” Billboard. Billboard, March 18, 2020. https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/9335788/recording-academy-musicares-coronavirus-relief-fund.
[vii] Steele, Anne. “Coronavirus Silences the Concert Industry.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, March 28, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-silences-the-concert-industry-11585396801.
[viii] Rosenthal, Ryan. “Ash Koosha x TheWaveVR Host Live Virtual Reality Concert Beyond Political Borders.” EARMILK, August 14, 2017. https://earmilk.com/2017/08/14/ash-koosha-x-thewavevr-host-live-virtual-reality-concert-beyond-political-borders/.
[ix] Allen, Karen. “What the Twitch? Why Artists Can and Should Use the Live-Streaming Platform (Guest Column).” Variety. Variety, September 18, 2019. https://variety.com/2019/music/opinion/twitch-music-artists-how-to-use-live-stream-column-1203334710/.
[x] “Joining the Affiliate Program.” Customer Support. Twitch. Accessed April 5, 2020. https://help.twitch.tv/s/article/joining-the-affiliate-program?language=en_US.
[xi] SoundCloud. “SoundCloud Is Partnering with Twitch so You Can Connect with New Fans and Get Paid.” SoundCloud Blog, March 20, 2020. https://blog.soundcloud.com/2020/03/20/soundcloud-is-partnering-with-twitch-so-you-can-connect-with-new-fans-and-get-paid/.
[xii] Deahl, Dani. “SoundCloud and Twitch Just Made It Easier for Musicians to Monetize Live Streams.” The Verge, March 23, 2020. https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/23/21191116/soundcloud-twitch-partnership-affiliate-status-musicians-monetize-live-streams.
[xiii] Deahl, Dani. “Bandsintown Will Help Musicians Get Faster Access to Twitch Monetization.” The Verge. The Verge, March 24, 2020. https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/24/21193190/twitch-bandsintown-artists-affiliate-program-coronavirus-pandemic.
[xiv] Herstand, Ari. “How a Singer/Songwriter Doubled Her Income From Periscope.” Digital Music News, February 28, 2017. https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2016/08/03/singersongwriter-doubled-income-periscope/.
[xv] Allen, Karen. “What the Twitch? Why Artists Can and Should Use the Live-Streaming Platform (Guest Column).” Variety. Variety, September 18, 2019. https://variety.com/2019/music/opinion/twitch-music-artists-how-to-use-live-stream-column-1203334710/.