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Passing the Hat in Times of COVID: Ways You Can Help Musicians
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Passing the Hat in Times of COVID: Ways You Can Help Musicians

With over 3 million Americans filing for unemployment in the wake of COVID-19, it seems that few professions are safe from the virus’s devastating economic impact, perhaps least of all musicians. 

Money is tight; major cities are in quarantine, and most bars, restaurants, and venues are closed. What’s a musician to do? Here are just some of the ways musicians–and the world–can find relief while stuck at home. 


GoFundMe is currently home to a host of artist relief funds operating at both the city and state level.

Spotted Cat Musician Relief and the New Orleans Brass Band Musicians Relief Fund pledges to lighten the load for bands booked at the Frenchman Street staple, as well as brass bands across the Crescent City, respectively. 

In Austin, The Red River Cultural District has launched Banding Together ATX, dedicated to aiding the live music community and all those who depend on it night after night. 

Popular music magazine Billboard has organized a state-by-state guide to available resources. Again, spotlight a couple of prominent GoFundMes?

Nashville musicians may want to check out The Grand Ole Opry Trust Fund, the Local 257 Emergency Relief Fund for members of the Nashville Musicians AFM Local 257, and Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s COVID-19 Response Fund.

Chicagoans can have a look at Chicago Blues Revival for donation-based live performances or the Illinois Department of Employment Security for unemployment benefits.

Los Angelenos have the option of more than a half-dozen programs, like free health insurance through Covered California Special Enrollment, or aid from the Music Fund of Los Angeles Coronavirus Emergency Relief Fund and the LA Mayor’s Economic Relief Package.

New Yorkers can apply to Lost My Gig NYC, a list of freelance workers in need of direct donations, or New York Foundation for the Arts Rauschenberg Emergency Grants for help with mounting medical bills, and the AFM Local 802 Musicians Emergency Relief Fund for union members.


While a $2-trillion government stimulus bill for songwriters and self-employed music workers currently makes its way through the House of Representatives, MusicCares and Sweet Relief have established funds to provide basic living assistance grants to musicians and music industry workers. Stipulations apply, and applicants must submit proof of their claim according to unique criteria.

Musical experience curator Equal Sound wants to pay musicians what they would have made in canceled gigs during the outbreak. Maximum payouts are $500, but for many musicians, any amount can make a significant difference. 


Music For Relief, the disaster response program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, has established the COVID-19 Response Fund, intended to provide aid to music industry workers affected by the economic impact of the virus. They are now accepting donations

German collection society GEMA has started a two-tier, $40-million-Euro aid program for general assistance and case-by-case grants for both industry workers and performers affected. 

Down under in Australia, Support Act is helping musicians back on their feet with a massive crowdsourced fundraiser to benefit all those affected by the loss of live music. 


Facebook Live and Instagram Live are invaluable outlets for performers and teachers, despite the protocols of social distancing. Those tuning in can tip a little–or a lot–through Venmo or Paypal. 

The Grammy Museum’s ongoing Museum at Home program features a packed calendar of events that includes “digital public programs” with an impressive roster of artists, like Tanya Tucker, Brandi Carlisle, and Shooter Jennings.

Festival series Luck Reunion recently held “‘Til Further Notice,” a streaming-only concert featuring artists as diverse as Willie Nelson, Nathanial Rateliff, and Kurt Vile.

Many artists, like Neil Young, are skipping social media altogether and creating privatized streams that you can watch for a nominal fee. Young’s Fireside Sessions are available on his subscription site, The Neil Young Archives

If you’re more of a physical media type, Bandcamp is the best way to make sure your money makes it directly to the artists. While the dot com usually takes a small cut, the company is currently waiving their fees to make sure the artists get the most out of your dollar. 

Music provides relief for many of us when few other things will suffice. While we all continue to adapt to this worldwide phenomenon, it’s necessary to consider those things most important to us. Keeping music alive has never been more essential than it is right now, and there are more ways to do it every day. 

If you can, please consider donating to one of these many relief groups, and share this article with a musician in need so that they too might continue to help those who need it. 


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