ARA Urges Financial Relief for Artists, Workers Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Today, the Artist Rights Alliance sent the following letter to Congressional majority and minority leaders explaining how musicians are being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and requisite social distancing efforts. The ARA urges Congress to ensure that any relief package takes into account the situation artists and many other workers across the creative industries and the broader economy find themselves in — unable to work from home and without a paycheck for the foreseeable future. The ARA supports bold, sweeping relief that addresses the many different employment situations Americans find themselves in during this unprecedented crisis.

March 17, 2020

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy

Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Chuck Schumer

Minority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, and Leader Schumer:

Thank you for your recent swift action on an initial aid package to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive disruptions this disease has wrought. Americans have always come together in times of crisis.

As Congress continues to assess the impact of the “social distancing” effort needed to mitigate the spread of this disease and to consider additional measures to offset disruptions, we write to draw your attention to the unique plight of musicians, vocalists, and other creative performers who have been particularly hard hit by the lockdown. Live performers were among the very first to suffer economically as a result of shutting down large gatherings, starting with the bellwether cancellation of the South by Southwest music festival and continuing this week with thousands of Saint Patrick’s Day performances canceled from coast to coast.

Unlike many jobs, musicians and performers can’t work from home or “replace a meeting with an email.” Our performances are often planned far in advance, with significant financial outlays most of us will never recover; and many traditional forms of relief like paid leave or a payroll tax holiday will not reach us or account for how we are paid.

We understand that all Americans are suffering and that Congress has a profoundly challenging job to develop a comprehensive approach to an increasingly complicated crisis. People working in different parts of the economy will be impacted by this shutdown differently, and we urge you to take all of these differences into account and pass bold, broad relief that is sufficient to meet this unprecedented challenge.

Within the creative community, we know you are already hearing from unions, cinema operators, Broadway and live theater performers, and so many more. We stand with our sisters and brothers all across the arts and urge you to think big and devise solutions that can sustain this irreplaceable human infrastructure that undergirds so much of our nation’s culture.

For different organizations, business, and individuals, different forms of relief will work best and we support the ongoing collaborative effort to find effective measures that will work most quickly. In the case of working-class musicians and performers, we believe the best solution is direct financial relief that can immediately replace lost income.

Even before this crisis, artists were struggling with high housing costs in cities where much of our work is concentrated, meager streaming payments from digital music services, and dwindling support for arts education, where many of us could teach to supplement our income. The cancellation of virtually all of our paid work opportunities is likely to drive many session musicians and live performers over the brink — into homelessness, hunger, and lost access to medical care. We believe Congress will not let that happen.

When this crisis passes, our communities will want to turn to music to reconnect in shared experiences. To celebrate in that unique “together as one” crowd experience music uniquely delivers. But to get there, we must act now to ensure musicians weather the storm.

Thank you for your consideration of our views.

Rosanne Cash

Thomas Manzi

John McCrea

Tift Merritt

Matthew Montfort

Maggie Vail

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