Coronavirus: Bandcamp and Musicares join efforts to help artists


Alright then. We definitely want to maintain a ‘business as usual’ aspect to Music Ally’s news coverage, but as you’ll tell from our lineup today, coronavirus is overshadowing a lot that’s happening in our industry right now. We won’t shy away from covering that, but we’re also looking for the good news: the people and platforms who are taking practical steps to help the musicians whose livelihoods are in very real danger from the current situation – especially as touring revenues disappear abruptly.

Let’s start with Bandcamp then. “Finding ways to continue supporting artists in the coming months is now an urgent priority for anyone who cares about music and the artists who create it,” wrote CEO Ethan Diamond in a blog post. His company will be waiving its revenue share on sales this Friday, and is encouraging fans to visit and support their favourite artists by buying music. “For many artists, a single day of boosted sales can mean the difference between being able to pay rent or not.”

There’s more news on support in the US, where the Recording Academy and its charitable foundation MusiCares have launched a ‘COVID-19 Relief Fund’ by chipping in $1m each as a first step. The Academy’s local chapters will all be raising funds too. “We know this fund will need to be significant. We will not be able to do it alone, and that’s why we are asking the entire music community including labels, streaming services, and anyone who is able to join us in this important effort,” said MusiCares chair Steve Boom.

The US Artists Rights Alliance has also written to members of the US Congress about the plight faced by musicians. “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,” it noted, while accepting that musicians are just one group among many affected by the current measures. “Pass bold, broad relief that is sufficient to meet this unprecedented challenge.”

Elsewhere in the world, music bodies are starting to gather the data necessary to press their case with governments. In the UK, for example, both the MMF (here) and the Musicians Union (here) have launched surveys to gauge the impact on the music community.

One thing we have spotted in the last couple of days is more talk about the potential responsibilities of the biggest music companies – labels and streaming services alike – to join in this effort. The comments by Boom – also VP of music at Amazon, of course – acknowledged this. “We’re all in when the good times roll, and it’s important that we’re all in when times are tough, too,” he said.

This Twitter thread from musician and PRS for Music / Ivors Academy exec Tom Gray makes a similar point more bluntly: “We are entering months when touring income will disappear, performers are losing their day jobs. The performance royalty that is produced from songs being performed in live spaces will disappear,” he wrote, suggesting that the recent boom for streaming services and major music companies has not been matched by the return for most songwriters and performers.

It is time, under the present circumstances for these people to fix the problem if they give a f**k about the ecosystem,” wrote Gray. Music Ally has always reported on the tensions around streaming, royalty splits and artist/songwriter incomes with balance and nuance. But we don’t think it’s stepping wildly out of line to suggest that now would be a very good time for the biggest companies to throw their weight (and their wallets) behind a range of relief efforts for the grassroots creator community, as well as exploring what can be done with their own processes (payments for example) to help.

We’re optimistic that we’ll be hearing more about their plans in the coming days: if there’s been relative silence so far, we shouldn’t forget that even the biggest companies, like every individual reading this bulletin, are struggling to keep up with the developing coronavirus situation and the measures being taken to tackle it. And getting back to that ‘looking for the good news’ point, in the last 24 hours it feels like we’re seeing the important early stages of coordinated efforts within the music industry to provide the relief that musicians will be needing in the weeks and months to come.

Written by: Stuart Dredge