When artists started canceling shows in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in February, Harvey Mason Jr., the chairman and interim CEO of the Recording Academy, saw that the music industry was headed into devastating, unprecedented territory.
“We knew right away when one or two tours got canceled,” he tells Fortune. “If people aren’t able to do concerts, it’s going to be really hard for our community to continue to make money. That’s musicians, cartage people, engineers, lighting—everybody who works to put these things on, not just the people you see on the stage singing.”
That’s why the academy and its affiliated charitable organization MusiCares quickly established the COVID-19 Relief Fund, which provides financial assistance to music industry professionals whose jobs and lives have been disrupted by the pandemic. To kick things off, both organizations donated $1 million each, and more contributions are coming in from all over the industry. Payments are already going out to help people with rent, medical bills, groceries, mental health treatment, and other needs.
To be eligible for the MusiCares fund, applicants initially had to have at least five years of employment in the music industry (or six commercially released recordings or music videos), but the board voted to relax the criteria to help more people. Now, the minimum is three years, though those with less will be considered. The amounts given out are determined on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to a set amount like the government’s proposed stimulus checks, while the fund awaits more donations. “If we could give $10,000 to everybody who asks, we would rather do that,” Mason says. “But it’s just going to be a matter of how much money can we raise and how many people need help.”
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