Leave this fucking article and call (813) 213-3989.
By HM Lyotard
Photo by Julian Bajsel
While we all hold our collective breath for the indefinite future worrying on the prognosis of live music as we know it, the grim state of things demands us to consider what we can do to support it in its time of need. Now more than ever is the time for vociferous action in defense of that which we hold dear and we must find allies wherever possible in this fight against both nature and time.
The recently formed Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) is doing just that after teaming up in early May to draft an open letter to Congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and “all members of the U.S. House and Senate” urging them to support the music industry and its enormous, diverse economy as it suffers from the reckoning of COVID-19.
Most recently, they declared May 14th 2020 a Day of Action in this fight and began a nationwide plea for all in the industry, or in support of it, to call on those in Congress in order to make their voices heard by those who can actually make a difference as the Legislative debates the merits of future stimulus options.
What you can do right now
Join the UMAW’s call at any time by dialing their hotline (813) 213-3989 to be guided through the process and directly connected to the relevant offices to speak with the congressional and senatorial staff (or more assuredly, leave a voicemail). Around 500 calls have already been made in the first few hours and the number must continue to grow.
The UMAW has also developed a sample script that you can use or improve that is available on its website. There you can read a more thorough breakdown of their demands as well, including such measures as “an extension of CARES Act unemployment benefits through at least the remainder of 2020”, “the extension of benefits to all Americans in need, regardless of their immigration status”, “a national rent and mortgage cancellation for all for the duration of the crisis, in order to ensure housing security, and to save our music venues, small businesses, and nonprofits” and more.
You can also still digitally sign their open letter to Congress on their public google form if you are a working musician or worker in the industry and join artists like Guy Picciotto (Fugazi), Lee Ranaldo, Mary Lattimore, Downtown Boys, of Montreal, Frankie Cosmos, Alice Bag, Julia Holter, Mega Bog, Gouge Away, DIIV, La Dispute, Half Waif, Katie Alice Greer, Diet Cig, Hether Fortune, Zola Jesus, Moor Mother, Charly Bliss, Baths, WHY?, Torres, Girlpool” and hundreds more.
If you’re still not convinced to pick up the damn phone
Important to note here I think is that while these demands seem bold and Panglossian, they underscore a more meaningful indictment of the American economic system attaching worth and well-being to the ‘kind’ of employment you seek. For most, a gainful, traditional 9-to-5 with a reliable paycheck comes with either a supplemental insurance benefit or the means to afford one, paid time off, or even consistent income working from home. Even if you’re hurting financially as a result of COVID-19, the previous pandemic financial relief packages and greater welfare system is designed to support you (whether it actually does so would require its own article). Yet like for so many others in the greater freelance and gig universe, they serve wholly inadequate and incomprehensive.
What of the DJ or band who gets steady work on the festival circuit and only has seasonal swells of revenue to last them the year? What if those swells completely evaporate for a year or two? Simply take a wider look at the very music economy itself. The problem compounds as venues can’t make their rent without the ability to safely book shows, crippling touring musicians, A/V & light techs, booking agents/promoters, music media and a litany of other live music industry folks. To be unbothered by this suffering and hardship is to display a remarkable failing in your understanding of the way music makes it to your ears.
All the while, labels and streaming giants continue to make the lion’s share of the remaining bank–with the recording artists themselves receiving a pittance for their troubles–even if audio streaming numbers are ticking down a bit in the past few weeks. With physical and digital sales already tanking, one can only imagine what could happen if that domino were to fall.
Frankly, the gravity of this moment in American history is clear. If you’re a musician, if your job depends on a musician, if your job depends on music, or if you just care about music that artists, big and small, dedicate their lives to making and performing for you, there’s only one thing you can do.