As the U.S. Congress considers a multibillion-dollar emergency aid package to offset the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the Recording Academy is urging members of Congress to consider music gig workers in relief plans.
Recording Academy chairman and interim CEO Harvey Mason Jr. detailed these concerns in a letter sent Wednesday to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
“As the national coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on all Americans, I urge you to protect our nation’s musicians, performers, songwriters, and studio professionals,” the letter begins. “Just as many large industries will be seeking support, you should not forget the smallest of small businesses: individual music makers who will not benefit from employer-based relief.”
The pandemic has resulted in dozens of tour, festival and event cancellations, meaning lost income not only for artists but for tour crews, lighting engineers, backing vocalists and countless others. And because these professionals often work as self-employed freelancers and independent contractors, Mason Jr. explains, they do not have benefits like paid leave or healthcare, and are not eligible for unemployment benefits.
“Music is the original ‘gig economy,'” he writes.
“As Congress considers emergency steps to provide critical support to American workers and families, it must extend such support to self-employed gig workers like those in the music community,” the letter continues. “Including these non-traditional workers in a stimulus package will give hundreds of thousands of individuals and their families the financial assistance they need during this crisis.”
Meanwhile, the Recording Academy is also rallying its membership to reach out to their congressional representatives about the same issues, and its D.C. team is lobbying members of Congress working on the bill. Tuesday, the academy announced a $2 million coronavirus relief fund through its philanthropic arm, MusiCares, which will support music professionals adversely impacted by the crisis.