Catching Up With COVID Benefit Partners
October 29, 2020
At the onset of COVID, we at StubHub quickly explored how we could utilize previously allocated funds at the StubHub Foundation to support those in the music and theatre industry who have been particularly impacted by the lack of live events. The industry faces a uniquely challenging and entirely unprecedented situation as the pandemic continues to leave theaters and music venues shuttered, and we believe it is squarely in our mission to give back to the artists and performers hit hardest. We identified three benefit partners and granted each one $25,000 to support COVID relief efforts. Those partners include MusiCares, Broadway Cares and Sweet Relief.
Now, roughly six months later, we’re catching up with a couple of the partners to hear what they have accomplished and the challenges they continue to face as the pandemic continues to impact the industry. Their stories are moving. These industries are resilient. Their resolve is admirable. Made of a collection of some of the most creative and innovative individuals, these industries will endure and these non-profit organizations will play a very important role in ensuring their future. We continue to be inspired by their work everyday and hope you’ll join us in supporting their mission.
What was your mission on an ordinary day - prior to COVID? Ordinarily, Sweet Relief’s mission is about helping music industry professionals who are overwhelmed with medical bills. Originally, our focus was on helping musicians but, a few years ago, we broadened it to include any music industry professional from road crew to producers and managers. We support anyone in the music industry who is suffering from a medical condition and is financially overwhelmed with medical bills. Usually this help would be in the form of financial assistance but we also offer support with resource assistance, connecting applicants with information and contacts that can help them in various ways.
Now, with the onset of COVID, how has your community of nonprofits and the music industry been impacted? Now, the industry has been impacted in ways beyond what we ever imagined. The touring industry has been wiped out. There is a need for support well beyond just the medical financial assistance, with almost every individual in the industry seeing business slow or come to a complete halt. As such, we have had to pivot and our resources are being utilized in different ways - most non-profits in the music industry are going through the same thing. More funding is needed and we have had to pivot on our mission and strategy.
Tell us more about what musicians and the music industry are facing. In general, most of them are out of work. Many - if not most - individuals in the music industry are gig workers who don’t have the standard W-2 or other documentation needed to qualify for unemployment benefits so they’re usually left high and dry. They can’t get easy and sufficient unemployment support. The live touring industry is shut down, so they can’t tour and earn money on the road. They’re struggling financially, many have lost 100% of their income and haven’t earned since March. Eight months, zero income, it’s devastating
So with these new challenges and the impact of COVID, how has your mission shifted? Sweet Relief’s mission is no longer focused strictly on providing financial relief and resources for medical-related debt. We started the COVID-19 fund in early March and we adjusted the criteria for eligibility. You don’t have to be sick, you don’t have to be overwhelmed by medical bills. You have to just be a music industry professional and impacted by job loss or other hardships as a result of the pandemic.
We’ve seen a significant increase in corporate funders, private funders and really just an overwhelming supportive response.. We continue to receive so much support from the music community, we couldn’t do it without all hands on deck.
With this wider focus and support, what impact have you been able to have? When we opened the door a little further, to eliminate the medical requirement, we were inundated by the need for assistance; as time has gone on the need has grown. What started as a desperate situation has become even more desperate. While we are overwhelmed by the support we’ve received and the number of applicants we have been able to help, we understand that there is a long way to go before a complete solution is realized.
We have raised more in the last eight months than we did in the previous two years. Private donations, artists, foundations, corporations have all been enormously generous and, as a result, we have been able to help thousands of applicants.
What challenges do you still see in our future? This has already been going on longer than we ever could have imagined, so sustaining the giving and keeping the funding coming in is our continued challenge. The charitable spotlight shifts over time. For now, the spotlight is on the election; a month or two ago, it was shifting another way. Lucky for us, the industry is composed of artists who are creative thinkers and entrepreneurs who are creative thinkers. This is a resilient community and we will get through it. We’ll see how the political climate shifts in the upcoming months and what impact that may have on the music industry. We will need a big financial intervention from the government to help revive this community.
What upcoming activities do you have or how can our readers support you? I’d say check out our website and sign up for our newsletter so you can learn about some of the livestreams we’re doing with artists and partners to drive fundraising. We have full-production livestreams coming up that will blow your mind with the artists involved. We have a merch program where artists are donating designs - and we have a really cool new holiday initiative coming up that I can’t yet share. Watch a live stream, buy some of the merch on our site, donate online; all of this helps.
We’re on it. Anything else to add? I’m filled with optimism because of the support we’ve received since March. I believe that there are people who care about our community and that we’ll come out of this on the other side more closely knit and stronger than ever.. During this time, everyone’s had a chance to really show their colors and they’ve shown the right colors, which makes all of us at Sweet Relief feel really really good. I feel confident we’ll be able to help everyone who has applied as a result of this tremendous support.
DONATE NOW TO SUPPORT SWEET RELIEF’S COVID-19 FUND here.
Founded by the Recording Academy in 1989, MusiCares is a 501c3 charity that provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. MusiCares provides a support system of health and human services across a spectrum of need including physical and mental health, addiction recovery, unforeseen personal emergencies and disaster relief. Additionally, MusiCares creates programming aimed at eliminating the stigma around mental health and asking for help.
In response to COVID-19 pandemic’s overwhelming effect on the music industry, MusiCares, in partnership with the Recording Academy, established the COVID-19 Relief Fund to help people in the music industry affected by the coronavirus disease outbreak and subsequent cancellation of multiple music events. With the support of some amazing partners like StubHub and countless artists, MusiCares has been able to raise and distribute over $19 million to over 19,000 music professionals in need. However, the urgency remains high and the fight continues. MusiCares is working relentlessly to raise more money to support those in the music community affected by COVID-19.
With no end in sight for this pandemic or the loss of jobs for many music professionals, MusiCares is fortunately in a unique position to directly help those affected. As our main focus has always been to protect and support music professionals and creators, we will continue to do so through all of our avenues. It’s a privilege to be able to connect directly with our community and hear about the direct impact we’re able to make and how best to serve them. Hearing stories like that of Jakob Reinhardt, a recent recipient of our COVID Relief support, are tremendously touching and informative for our mission. Jakob is a Broadway guitar player and music producer who settled in New York after touring with Broadway shows. Like many, Jakob was suddenly left without work once live events shut down in March. He’d just recently signed up to play guitar on the North American tour of “Bat Out Of Hell: The Musical” when events were cancelled, and was also unable to finish his production work with the closure of recording studios. Thankfully, he was already familiar with MusiCares after attending a couple of clinics held by MusiCares at Local 82, the New York Musician Union. After applying for aid through the MusiCares application, Jakob was able cover expenses needed to continue his work as a producer in his home country of Germany. “Not only has the fund been extremely helpful to those in need, MusiCares has also been a constant positive force in the music community for years. I have always been appreciative of their constant support,” says Jakob.
Nothing is more unifying than music and we’re so grateful for our position to continue to support our musician community during these uncertain times. MusiCares has many ways for everyone to join in to help keep the music community alive and thriving, giving it as much as it gives us. We are hopeful that we will once again enjoy live music together at a venue, a festival, or even by watching it in our homes, but for now, we can rejoice on knowing that day will come thanks to all of the music supporters around the world.
Please visit musicares.org for more information on how to help or to apply for aid.