Bikini Kill, Fugazi, Neutral Milk Hotel & more sign open letter to expand unemployment during COVID-19
Bikini Kill, Fugazi, Neutral Milk Hotel, Passion Pit, Downtown Boys, Snail Mail, Wolf Parade, Marc Ribot, New Bomb Turks, Vagabon, Girlpool, Endless Boogie, Kid Congo, Poliça, Julia Holter, John Vanderslice, Deerhoof, Control Top, WHY?, DeVotchka, Beach Fossils, and hundreds more bands and musicians, DJ and tour-related workers have signed an open letter to state and federal lawmakers asking that they expand unemployment benefits to include musicians in coronavirus relief packages. Here’s the letter in full:
While all workers are suffering right now, musicians, touring workers, DJs and other gig economy workers are particularly hurt because we are ineligible for unemployment, paid sick leave, or other benefits under our current system. We pay significant amounts in income tax to the state and federal government, but because most of us are categorized as self-employed, we are unable to access the same benefits as those with single-employer jobs.
We ask that you ensure the next Federal relief package includes the extension of unemployment and other benefits to all musicians, DJs, and all gig economy workers who have lost their income due to COVID-19. Workers should be able to use any income — including 1099 earnings and demonstrable anticipated future income wiped out by COVID-19 — to apply for unemployment and other benefits.
Other entertainment industry organizations such as IATSE and SAG-AFTRA are currently calling for similar measures.
Even before the crisis, the large majority of musicians were suffering under the precarity of the gig economy. According to a 2017 survey by the Music Industry Research Association, the median income of a working musician was $21,500, far below the median US income of $31,900. Most musicians are forced to work second jobs, often elsewhere in the gig economy. Public funding for the arts offers little assistance to US musicians. The NEA provides $8 million of funding for music among a US population of 321 million people, as compared to France, which dedicates $307 million to its 67 million people, or England, which gives $227 million for a population of 43 million.
Musicians and DJs make the majority of their money by performing and touring, especially in the age of streaming services, which have significantly reduced recording income. Coronavirus has cancelled all performances, and so musicians have instantly witnessed all their income vanish. It could be months or longer before life returns to normal in the US, and even longer before we can host concerts again. Musicians need immediate relief now.
A large segment of the US economy has recently shifted to gig economy work. This includes rideshare drivers, journalists, teachers, delivery drivers, tech workers, and more. Yet our current unemployment system is structured to prevent these workers from receiving any benefits. We should have long ago updated our system to serve our changing economy, but the current crisis makes it absolutely essential that we do so right now.
You can view the full list of supporters, and sign it yourself, here.