The COVID-19 epidemic has caused unprecedented financial instability for artists, music firms, and behind-the-scenes industry employees 1 hour or less.
Find out how you may apply for emergency financial help on the local and federal levels, contribute to data gathering and advocacy initiatives, or build an interim basis for regular income online. (See also how fans may assist artists and industry employees.)
Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the SBA
Small companies in 36 states and Washington, D.C. may apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) caused by the coronavirus.
For up to $2 million at a low rate of 3.75 percent, small firms in qualified states have until mid-December 2020 to apply (2.75 percent for private nonprofits). Applicants must have good credit and be able to repay the loan within 30 years; collateral is needed for loans exceeding $25,000.
Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin are now ineligible.
other nat’l financing
The Recording Academy’s MusiCares charitable group launched a $2 million COVID-19 relief fund this week, which would initially award $1,000 grants to music industry workers who need basic living support due to event cancellations and job losses.
To be eligible, applicants must have five years of experience in the music business and six commercially released records (singles are OK) or six commercial/promotional music videos. There are three applications, one for each area (you can use this map to figure out which one you are in), and the grants may grow as more music firms and fans give to the fund.
The Jazz Foundation offers the COVID-19 Musicians’ Emergency Fund and the New Music USA Solidarity Fund for “new/creative/improvised music freelancers.” The Freelancers Union’s Freelancers Relief Fund and ConvertKit’s Creator Fund are also accessible to freelance music industry employees.
Musicians infected by the coronavirus may now apply for financial assistance via Sweet Relief’s COVID-19 initiative. In addition to performing frequently, applicants must have featured on, written for, or produced “at least three widely distributed records (audio or video)”.
The Arts and Culture Leaders of Color Emergency Fund will award $200 grants to impacted artists and artist administrators who self-identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color).
Keep an eye on the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) and the New York Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.
State and local financing
Across the country, hundreds of state and local financing schemes target music industry employees. On a first-come, first-served basis, most of them provide grants of between a few hundred dollars and several thousand dollars to approved candidates.
Many of these donations are organized using GoFundMe (e.g. for the cities of Tucson, Ariz., Seattle, Wash., Chicago, New York, Austin, Texas, Durham, N.C., Pittsburgh, Pa. and Columbus, Ohio, and for the states of Michigan, New Mexico and Oregon). Cities like Austin and New York are now keeping open-submission listings of event freelancers in need, with direct payment data on Venmo, PayPal, and other applications.
Billboard also maintains a state-by-state resource list for music business professionals.
Payday loans from music distributors, e-commerce sites, and private lenders
Depending on the music company, cash advance offers from a music distributor, e-commerce platform, or independent lender may be faster.
Sound Earnings announced Monday the creation of a $20 million fund to boost artists’ future recorded music royalties without assuming copyright ownership. Applications are accepted until May 16, 2020, or until the funds are expended, whichever comes first. For the no-fee loans, candidates must earn at least $5,000 in recording royalties each year, according to the application form.
A number of independent music distributors and startups, including TuneCore (which partners with Lyric Financial), CD Baby, Symphonic Distribution, Stem, and Amuse, provide cash advances to qualifying artists and labels for a fixed fee based on the amount advanced and the expected repayment time.
These distributor-led schemes don’t involve credit checks or collateral, and they don’t penalize artists who don’t pay back their loans on time. Still, read the tiny print: These costs range from 5% to 25%, several times more than the interest rates for SBA disaster relief loans and other more generalist projects.
There may be ways to avoid going straight to your distributor for advances. For example, if you use DistroKid to distribute music and get royalty payments through PayPal, you may be eligible for Working Capital or Small Business Loan advances.
Other businesses that provide cash advances for a charge include Square Capital, Stripe Capital, and Shopify Capital, which are all available to artists and labels with an active e-commerce company.
Either way, it’s free.
Following recent tour and festival cancellations, hundreds of artists, event organizers, and companies are putting live musical performances online.
Music labels may employ a variety of technologies to plan and monetize virtual events, from platforms like Twitch and Periscope that allow viewers to donate in real-time to newer applications like Moment House and Key that place livestreams behind a paid barrier. Artists, industry professionals, and others may utilize the free Virtual Music Events Directory to stage free or paid livestreamed events online utilizing video or audio.
While platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch have mastered livestreaming content, promoting virtual events may be difficult. The easiest approach for event organizers to promote their livestreams is to either reach out to existing audiences through newsletters and social media, or submit to open virtual-event calendars like NPR’s and independent efforts like Stay At Home Fest.
e-commerce tools (and waived transaction fees)
If they haven’t already, music firms should consider setting up e-commerce or recurring membership channels on sites like Shopify, Bandcamp, and Patreon.
These companies have waived revenue sharing and/or premium upgrade costs for certain of their music and audio producing software packages. (The Verge has a comprehensive list of these offers and free utilities.)
Following COVID-19, a few of these sites are waiving transaction fees. By waiving its customary revenue split (15 percent for digital and merch) from midnight to midnight PST on March 20, Bandcamp passes full money to artists and labels. Songtradr, a music licensing and rights management platform, is also waiving its income share until April 18, 2020, giving full money to artists and rights owners.
It’s also a good opportunity for musicians to create profiles on music-focused marketplace sites like BeatStars and SoundBetter, if they haven’t already.
Advocate, educate, and develop community
Last but not least, music firms may contribute to regular polls concerning the economic effect of COVID-19 on the entertainment and arts sectors.
Independent Venue Week, an annual event in the US and UK showcasing independent venues, has been hosting monthly town halls for producers, venue owners, and other event professionals to discuss recurring closures. While the calls are restricted to the public, interested parties may contact [email protected] for further information.
Similarly, ticket exchange provider Lyte has created a private Slack channel to connect promoters and event organizers, remain informed on industry trends, and share best practices. Interested parties should fill out this form.
This week, IMPALA’s COVID-19 task group is due to submit a “bundle of suggested actions at national, European, and sector levels[s]”. “Weekly calls to monitor action done by European institutions and governments throughout Europe” will be held.
Americans for the Arts, the Musicians’ Union, and I Lost My Gig, a resource center backed by a coalition of music groups in Australia and New Zealand, are all doing similar surveys on a rolling basis.
The findings of these polls will likely be used into government decision-making and lobbying efforts for future entertainment industry assistance, both locally and federally.