In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, over 700 musicians have signed an open letter asking the US Congress to increase relief measures for artists. A wide range of acts have signed the petition so far, including Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, Deafheaven, Julia Holter, Charly Bliss, and Jeff Rosenstock.
The newly formed Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) penned the letter as a way to ask their government representatives — especially Speaker Pelosi, Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and leaders of the Congressional Arts Caucus — to consider more helpful COVID-19 relief measures for artists. To make contacting representatives easier, the union has created a special phone number to connect callers to the aforementioned offices, the prompts of which are voiced by Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz. Artists can get involved by signing the open letter and calling the phone number at (813) 213-3989.
UMAW’s demands include the extension of new unemployment benefits through the end of the year, providing all COVID benefits to all Americans regardless of immigration status, a rent and mortgage freeze, a significant expansion of national arts organization funding, expanding Medicare to all Americans, and fully funding the US Post Office without privatization or cuts.
The list of signatures asking for better aid for artists is pretty impressive. Not only are there big indie rock names like off Montreal and Frankie Cosmos alongside rising acts like Melkbelly and SASAMI, but there’s also plenty of representation from genres like hardcore and punk (Hot Water Music, La Dispute, Downtown Boys, Gouge Away), folk (Mary Lattimore, Florist, Squirrel Flower), hip-hop (Sammus, Moor Mother), emo (Modern Baseball, Thin Lips, Circa Survive), and electronic music (Steve Hauschildt, STRFKR, Zola Jesus).
“It’s hard to say when we will be earning a livable income again because music venues may be the last businesses to reopen, if they survive,” said UMAW co-organizer Josephine Shetty, who performs as Kohinoorgasm. “Our instability is exacerbated by that uncertainty along with the continual inadequacy of each relief package. The lag in benefits for some and lack of benefits for others is a matter of survival. We are in immediate need of a relief package that adequately addresses our demands.”
Musicians have been impacted hard by the coronavirus pandemic and need governmental assistance. Concerts likely won’t return until 2021, albums delays are becoming increasingly common, and the live music experience won’t be the same for a long time. If our government doesn’t find a way to support the arts fairly, and soon, then drive-in concerts, car raves, and nonstop livestream shows may be the final frontier for performers to make a few bucks — well, that and Bandcamp’s generosity.
Here at Consequence of Sound, we’re doing our best to support independent musicians, as well as ourselves. We’ve launched a capsule of speciality face masks and are donating a portion of the proceeds to the MusiCares COVID-19 Artist Relief Fund. Get yours here.