“The Show Must Go On”
How the Music Community Is Moving Forward During the COVID-19 Pandemicby CILLEA HOUGHTON
Despite the immense difficulties the world is struggling with during the COVID-19 pandemic, the music community continues to take care of its own.
In a recent webinar hosted by Music Biz, representatives from trade organizations — including CMA, National Songwriters Association International (NSAI) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) — shared advice for their members about how to stay afloat during the pandemic. They also discussed the benefits of the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion federal stimulus package that, among other things, lends support to workers who don’t normally qualify, including those who are self-employed and independent contractors. NSAI Executive Director Bart Herbison worked with government leaders to develop language for the bill that qualifies songwriters, road crews, independent artists and more for unemployment and paycheck protection loans. National Music Publishers’ Association President and CEO David Israelite says he’s helping songwriters and publishers navigate the financial implications they may experience later this year due to recently canceled events, noting that live-event industry personnel often get paid months after a gig. With thousands of gig economy workers in Tennessee out of work and the pandemic’s impact on CMA members, CMA is continuously finding innovative and beneficial ways to help provide resources and information to members during this time.
Many of these trade organizations—along with other institutions such as ASCAP, Global Music Rights and Live Nation—joined forces to send an impassioned letter to members of Congress in pursuit of more funding for music professionals in need. Citing stagehands, promoters and drivers as some of the industry’s most vulnerable people reliant on live events for income, the letter asks that a direct financial aid benefit be added to the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, along with emergency unemployment insurance access for music professionals unable to work during the pandemic. “We must take care of the many people in the American entertainment community who will help us heal, rebuild, and bring us back together, in public and in spirit,” the letter asserts.
Companies that typically operate behind the scenes are also stepping up to help. As the largest staging company in North America, known for its work at music festivals and other large scale events, Mountain Productions is now building structures such as makeshift hospitals, quarantine units and mobile emergency response and testing centers to accommodate the overwhelmed healthcare system caring for COVID-19 patients.
On the financial front, several organizations have donated to relief funds. CMA and the CMA Foundation contributed $1 million to the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund to help those in the music industry who have lost employment, with a specific focus on covering rent and mortgage costs. Additionally, Music Health Alliance (MHA), a nonprofit that helps music industry personnel gain access to healthcare, has partnered with the Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief Project to amplify its mission of providing vital services. MHA has created a COVID-19 & Tornado Relief Plan that provides financial support, health insurance assistance and an expansive database of resources to the music community, with Spotify matching donations made to select charities of up to $10 million.
As the music industry adapts to this new normal, one element remains unchanged: the familial bond that unites us.
CMA is monitoring the impact of COVID-19 and working with industry leadership to gather information, share resources and advocate for the entire Country Music community. Visit the CMA COVID-19 Resource page for more information.
The Circle Remains Unbroken: The Grand Ole Opry Plays on During COVID-19
In its 95 years on the air, the Grand Ole Opry has persevered through monumental events in history, from wars to the Great Depression and now the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 14, the Opry announced it was closing its doors to the public in compliance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) mandates. But the historic institution was determined to keep the show going for its loyal listeners. Grand Ole Opry Vice President and Executive Producer Dan Rogers and his staff invited Opry favorites to perform in the famous circle every Saturday night. The venue is working with the Metro Nashville Public Health Department and closely following the CDC’s guidelines to produce the show weekly, with only a small staff and a few of artists performing acoustically onstage six feet apart. Fans can catch the program on Saturday nights as the Opry broadcasts live on the Circle TV network, social media live-streams and WSM radio.
Rogers describes the experience of producing the show under these unprecedented circumstances as “surreal” but “magical,” whether watching artists like Lauren Alaina and Ashley McBryde rehearse in the parking lot while practicing social distancing, or hearing the sound of Ricky Skaggs’ fiddle light up the empty Opry House. Such moments keep the sacred circle unbroken.
“I believe the drive to continue broadcasts without an audience in the auditorium came mostly from our desire to keep a treasured tradition alive,” says Rogers. “It’s helped us appreciate amazing fans, artists and partners without whom we wouldn’t be going strong at 95. I truly believe this crisis has helped those friends appreciate this amazing show called the Grand Ole Opry.”