Bikini Kill, Neutral Milk Hotel, Snail Mail, Speedy Ortiz, and others have signed an open letter to Congress and state governments demanding unemployment benefits for self-employed workers in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” the letter reads. “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,” it continues. “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 signed artists include Downtown Boys, Algiers, Fugazi, Wolf Parade, Kimya Dawson, Trace Mountains, Girlpool, Diet Cig, Vagabon, and more. Other entertainment organizations, like SAG-AFTRA and IATSE, are also fighting for benefits.
“When you work in an industry where you have to constantly be working or in a matter of months you will not be able to pay your rent, this has pulled the rug from under our feet,” Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner said in a statement. “We cannot survive on a scarcity model where we workers have, for far too long, been the last people to get paid even though we are the first people you see,” he added. “Scarcity is not the problem, how to shift an outdated paradigm where we are left out is the problem.”
There are many ways to support independent musicians during the pandemic, from donating money to buying merchandise. You can also purchase albums on Bandcamp or donate to MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund.