Thanksgiving weekend launches Local Spins’ countdown of its most-read stories of 2020. The pandemic, not surprisingly, dominated the scene — including our No. 12 story about a new musicians’ relief fund.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today, we begin our countdown of the top Local Spins stories of 2020, based on the reader traffic these posts generated. Starting at No. 12, we revisit the March 16 announcement of a campaign to assist Michigan musicians who’ve lost performance income due to the COVID-19 shutdown. The Michigan Artist Relief Fund is still active and you can learn more about it — with ways to help — online here.
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With the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis and mid-March bar closures dealing a major blow to bands who’ve had nearly all of their performances canceled, the Michigan Music Alliance has established a relief fund to help Michigan musicians recover some of their financial losses.
The Michigan Artist Relief Fund aims to raise $100,000 in donations which will be used to distribute payments to musicians who apply for funding help if they meet specific criteria.
The action comes after hundreds of concerts across Michigan have been canceled as venues, bars and restaurants struggle to cope with the ravages of the coronavirus outbreak, deal with canceled national tours and try to meet various restrictions limiting attendance at their shows.
On March 16, 2020, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the first set of closures of all bars in the state, as well as limiting restaurants to takeout service only. That means concerts at these venues have been canceled, adding to losses being felt by independent bands and solo artists.
“It’s pretty devastating,” said Emilee Petersmark of the Grand Rapids folk-rock band The Crane Wives. “It’s not just our music careers that have been affected. Our side jobs are cutting hours, if not telling us to stay home altogether.”
Added Traverse City singer-songwriter Joshua Davis: “I had a huge couple months lined up. They’re gone. Some are rescheduled. Some aren’t. I lost an incredible amount of money in one day.”
The Michigan Artist Relief Fund was inspired by a similar effort launched by the city of Boston to assist its arts community. The Michigan Music Alliance is partnering with Grand Haven’s Walk the Beat and Crooked Tree Creative on this initiative, which also is seeking assistance from state and local governments as well as corporate sponsors.
ASSISTING THOSE ‘WHO MAKE INCOME THROUGH GIGS AND FREELANCE MUSIC’
“As an agency representing 20 musical acts and housing a team of five agents, we are feeling all of the aspects in which COVID-19 is impacting the music industry on a personal level,” said Elle Lively, of Grand Haven, executive director of Michigan Music Alliance and head of Crooked Tree Creative.
“I’m hoping this helps ease some of the pains and give some hope in the storm of bad news and constant cancellations. All of our 20 artists have had a show, or all of them in the next three weeks cancel.”
The fund is aimed at assisting “people who make income fully through gigs and freelance music work” who’ve lost “critical opportunities to support their well-being.”
The fund will welcome applications from “any full-time musicians living in Michigan, but will prioritize artists with severe financial impact. The fund will be open for recouping financial losses due to canceled music events.”
Organizers also are selling “Support Michigan Music” T-shirts for $20, with proceeds added to the fund. Order T-shirts online here.
In northern Michigan, the Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology, based in Bellaire, launched a similar “emergency fund” to provide funds “for artists in need right now.” The fund started with $9,000 and is actively raising more money to expand the service. Get details here.
A TREND TOWARD ‘STAY AT HOME’ LIVE-STREAMING CONCERTS
Lively said the Michigan Music Alliance’s response to the COVID-19 crisis is aimed at supporting efforts that solo artists and bands are taking “to reschedule, postpone and move concerts to live-streaming.”
Many bands and artists have turned to staging live-streamed concerts on Facebook and elsewhere online to stay connected with their fans despite canceled shows.
“I just needed to play and it seemed like people wanted to listen. It felt good,” said Davis, who live-streamed a performance at home after a scheduled March concert in Grand Haven was postponed.
Petersmark and her partner, Korey Schnell, also started a digital concert series dubbed, “Stay in Your House Shows,” with Facebook serving as a “virtual venue” for a couple of live shows each month. There’s a link to donate to the performing musicians via PayPal.
For many artists, the income lost from canceled – rather than postponed concerts – can’t be recovered, including merchandise sold at those shows.
Olivia Mainville, who fronts Via Mardot and Olivia & The Aquatic Troupe, has had had performances in March and beyond scrapped.
“For most musicians, this is a pretty hard blow to their financial career,” she said. “I’m one of many musicians who solely rely on show and merch money. But as always, I’ll continue to be as frugal as possible while supporting my fellow artists and local shopkeepers as much as I can.”
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