Programs Ramp Up To Assist Musicians Losing Work Due To COVID-19

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COURTESY BLUES CITY CAFE
  • Courtesy Blues City Cafe
For musicians, the brave new world we all face in the shadow of COVID-19 is especially difficult. As a recent NPR story notes, "almost at once, it seemed like the entire March calendars of musicians across the country were wiped clean. Within hours Wednesday, thousands of dollars in expected income vanished."

While many are exploring live-streamed concerts and the tips they can provide, for many players the funds from these events are too little, too late.

But there are signs of hope for these artists, often from very local institutions who realize that if Memphis is to remain a music city, something, or someone, has got to give.

Yesterday Music Export Memphis, a nonprofit that has assisted so many touring acts based here, announced that it was launching fundraising for a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. While details of how financial assistance will be administered are still being worked out, the program is now taking donations, in anticipation of an ever-escalating need in the weeks and months to come.

The Blues Foundation is another local nonprofit that is stepping up its community assistance, with a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund for Blues Musicians. As the foundation announced that its upcoming Blues Music Awards will pivot to become a series of online events, "they are asking those who have purchased 2020 BMA tickets and/or Blues Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony tickets to convert those purchases to donations to be applied directly to this Emergency Relief Fund. Ticket purchasers will also be offered the option for a refund of their ticket purchases or to apply those purchases to next year's events." Noting that The Blues Hall of Fame Museum is closed for the time being, they add that they "will continue to accept phone calls and respond to emails throughout the duration of the coronavirus pandemic."



On a national level, other efforts have sprung into action. The Recording Academy®, which oversees the Grammy Awards, and has a strong chapter based in Memphis, has operated the MusiCares® foundation for some time. It typically offers medical relief to musicians caught off guard without insurance or other niceties of salaried jobs, but has now begun a COVID-19 Relief Fund

And Bandcamp, where so many independent artists offer their recorded wares (or files), made this announcement on Tuesday:

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....Still, we consider this just a starting point.

So get online tomorrow and purchase those singles, EPs, albums, and downloads. Your spending will go directly into the pockets of musicians in need. And if you have the means, consider donating to some of the initiatives above. For a musician, it could make all the difference. 

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