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How to support Minnesota musicians during the coronavirus crisis

Remo Drive's amplifiers in The Current studio, 2019. (Nate Ryan/MPR)
Remo Drive's amplifiers in The Current studio, 2019. (Nate Ryan/MPR)

by Lydia Moran

March 23, 2020

On March 16, the Walz-Flanagan administration extended unemployment benefits to those who have lost their jobs or had their hours significantly cut due to COVID-19. The executive order waives the traditional waiting week to ensure applicants have access to benefits as quickly as possible.

Yet there is currently no aid under state unemployment benefits for self-employed workers or independent contractors. Unfortunately, that includes much of the music community. With venues indefinitely shuttered, tours postponed, and festivals canceled, many musicians find themselves in a state of shock, especially those who side-hustle in the service industry or other jobs that rely on people leaving their homes.

Below you’ll find some ways to offer support, financial or otherwise, to artists impacted by the crisis. And to musicians caught in the tide, here you’ll find resources to apply for emergency funding or otherwise drum up support.

Direct financial support

Often the best way to ensure your contribution supports artists as quickly as possible is by donating directly. Keep an eye on social media as many artists use those avenues to link Venmo or Cash App accounts or crowdfunding campaigns. Visit an artist’s website directly to find ongoing ways to support through Patreon or other monthly contribution platforms.

For those struggling with any emotional or logistical barriers to asking for financial help, The Creative Independent published a guide on how to ask for what you need, which includes everything from roleplaying exercises to advice on building long-term relationships with contributors. Backline connects music industry folks with a vetted network of mental health professionals, and this compilation offers mental health resources for freelance artists, including links to the Music Industry Therapists collective and online sobriety tools. You can donate to Backline here.

If you’d like to offer financial support on a larger scale, Springboard for the Arts has expanded its Personal Emergency Relief Fund. Moving forward, they will prioritize applications from POC and Indigenous artists, artists living in rural communities, artists in the disability community, and artists who identify as LGBTQIA+ in order to address how systematic disparities are compounding with the current crisis. You can donate to the fund here, and apply for funding of up to $500 here.

Similarly, The Twin Cities Music Community Trust disperses funds to individuals in the music and event industries who have directly been affected by the crisis. Donate here, and apply for funding here. For more community self-support projects, this map by Mutual Aid Hub offers region-specific networks of financial and task-based aid.

At the national level, organizations like the Recording Academy and the American Federation of Musicians have organized special campaigns to aid music people in need. Billboard has compiled and continuously updates this list of other relief funds.

A good time to buy merch

Been eyeing that tote bag or hoodie for a while but regularly too beat post-show to approach the merch table? Now is a good time to order online and spice up the self-isolation ‘fit. Many artists sell merchandise through their Bandcamp pages or websites. For artists who don’t have capacity to orchestrate an online shop, a group of local artists has organized the MN Artist Relief Shop where 100% of all sales go directly to those impacted by the crisis. There’s also Missed Tour for “fans helping bands.”

Speaking of Bandcamp, the site is oft-praised for collecting only 10-15% of physical and digital sales, leaving the remaining 80% for independent artists and labels. Here is a resource for finding Minnesota artists on the site. As for streaming services, musicians have called on Spotify to triple royalty rates in light of the crisis (some estimates have rights holders racking up just $3.18 per 1,000 streams). For now, purchasing music through Bandcamp or iTunes seems to be the best way to listen supportively.

Of course, the Minnesota music community is impacted in ways beyond gig cancellations. Down in the Valley, Barely Brothers, and Rock Paper Scissors are among music retailers providing curbside record pickup, and many more are offering discounts on shipping and gift cards. City Pages has compiled a comprehensive list of the status of Twin Cities record stores. As of March 21, small businesses are eligible for disaster loans. Learn more here.

Plan for the future

As distinct days of the week start to seem like figments of the imagination, it might be a good mental exercise to schedule outings for when this moment is over. And when you buy concert tickets as they are available, that income supports artists and venues right now, even if the show is postponed or refunded.

While we dream of a future filled with reunion shows and celebratory stage crowding, The Current is compiling an ongoing virtual gig list so artists and fans can safely come together and lend comfort and camaraderie. Consider contributing what you would have paid for a traditional performance.

And on that note, there are a plethora of non-monetary ways to offer support. Increase your favorite artist’s visibility by sharing their music on social platforms, transforming their lyrics into one of those viral handwashing memes, etc. Make a quarantine dance playlist. Offer to share skills like website or merch design. Send words of encouragement. Educate yourself on how marginalized artists, especially those in Asian-American communities, are especially impacted by the crisis. Even at a safe distance, you can still show your support.

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.