Streaming, fundraising, merch: Helping musicians through coronavirus

As coronavirus forces the world into lockdown, a number of measures have been set up to help musicians who have suffered income loss.

As with the bushfire emergency, communities have come together in solidarity to help those in need, setting up fundraisers and websites for Australian musicians whose work has been impacted as gatherings of more than 500 people are banned to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Charlotte Abroms, a Melbourne-based music manager at Hear Hear Group, who manages musicians Ainslie Wills, Haarlo and Angie McMahon, started a fundraising campaign on Facebook with money raised going to Support Act, a charity delivering crisis relief services to artists, crew and music workers that impacts their ability to work. Funds raised so far are currently at $22,000 (20 March).

‘In the wake of gig cancellations, our industry is facing a crisis. The music industry is so generous and now is the time for that generosity to be returned to those who need it most,’ she told ArtsHub.

‘The funds raised will assist Support Act to provide short-term crisis relief to artists, crew and music workers affected by the pandemic.’

Abroms said the industry faces a precarious time as loss of income means instability for so many.

‘I’ve spoken to many artists, managers and crew who are facing temporary unemployment and will need assistance to pay rent and bills and look after their families.’

How the industry is supporting musicians

The website I Lost my Gig has been set up by the Australian Music Industry Network and the Australian Festival Association to track the income lost from cancelled gigs, its current tally sits at $200 million. It’s estimated 40 per cent of those submitting to the site are musicians with the rest comprised of technical services, management, and production services.

‘We wanted to try and track the impact and use it as some kind of way to find out who is being impacted, get some insight into what is going on, and really be able to identify and name the problem that we were seeing unfold in front of us and be able to use it as a tool to advocate to government for specific support,’ said Emily Collins, Managing Director of Music NSW and Chair of Australian Music Industry Network

Collins said the best way to support musicians during this time is simply through listening to their music. The website has compiled a Spotify playlist asking those contributing to the site to provide links so artists can rack up royalties through streaming.

‘Find ways to support your artists, find them online, buy their merchandise, find their Bandcamp pages, stream them on Spotify and see if they’re got personal donation campaigns running.’

Emily Collins

There’s also been pressure placed on Spotify to triple royalty rates for artists with The Guardian reporting musician Evan Greer has launched an online petition asking the streaming service to donate  $500,000 to the COVID-19 Sweet Relief  fund, a charity in California providing assistance to music and arts industry workers. 

A representative from Spotify told The Guardian: ‘There’s no question this is a challenging time for our creator community and we are working to assist them through MusiCares’ Covid-19 relief fund to provide much needed assistance.’

Read: Coronavirus Australian arts events cancellations: state by state

Meanwhile, digital music site Bandcamp, has been praised for its efforts in helping musicians by indicating revenue shares would be waived today. 

‘To raise even more awareness around the pandemic’s impact on musicians everywhere, we’re waiving our revenue share on sales this Friday, March 20 (from midnight to midnight Pacific Time), and rallying the Bandcamp community to put much needed money directly into artists’ pockets,’ read a statement from Ethan Diamond, the co founder and CEO of Bandcamp.

‘For many artists, a single day of boosted sales can mean the difference between being able to pay rent or not. Still, we consider this just a starting point. 

‘Musicians will continue to feel the effects of lost touring income for many months to come, so we’re also sharing some ideas below on how fans can support the artists they love and how artists can give fans new, creative ways to provide support.’

But perhaps most importantly, getting through this challenging time is something that needs to be approached at a political level, Collins concluded.

‘Write to your local member, your state representative your federal member and ask them to support the industry that always supports everybody else.’

Support Act have a well-being helpline for music and performing arts workers available 24 hours. Visit Support Act online or call 1800 959 500