Even if you believe things are looking up enough for stay-at-home guidelines to be scaled back as summer nears, the news in the live music world remains unquestionably bleak.
As we near the two-month mark of concerts being canceled due to the coronavirus, venues around the Twin Cities remain closed and have continued postponing shows well into summer. There’s widespread speculation the live music industry won’t be able to fully ramp up again until 2021.
To add to the hurt, many of Minnesota’s musicians and music-biz professionals who work on a gig-by-gig basis have found it difficult if not outright impossible to garner unemployment benefits.
Fortunately, the state’s inordinate number of music fans who want to — and can — help keep things rocking have these options for supporting the cause.
Tip the livestreamers. You can’t really say local musicians have been entirely out of work; many of them have actually been working their tails off staging livestream gigs from home during the quarantine. Check the social-media feeds of your favorite players for upcoming virtual gigs. When you tune in, look for Venmo or PayPal addresses to safely send them a little money as a virtual cover charge, tip or whatever you want to call paying them for their services. Some artists have also set up monthly Patreon.com memberships for online happenings, including Cloud Cult, Haley, and Davina & the Vagabonds.
Buy merch on Bandcamp or other indie retailers. The retail and download site Bandcamp.com reiterated its artist-friendly stance early in the quarantine when it waived all its fees on albums and merchandise sale, giving more money to the acts. Bandcamp is doing the same thing again this Friday. If you can’t find what you want there, go directly to the artists’ websites, or consider ordering for delivery from local record shops’ websites, which can also use the support.
Twin Cities Music Community Trust. Created a decade ago to benefit sidelined musicians and employees, First Avenue’s nonprofit trust fund quickly became a go-to resource for helping the music community on the whole during the pandemic, including stage crews and bar staff at venues across town. Direct donations can be made via twincitiesmusiccommunitytrust.org, or the club is selling T-shirts and other items that specifically benefit the fund at first-avenue.com.
Other venues’ in-house funds. Many Twin Cities venues have set up GoFundMe pages to help their staff and/or pay bills, including the Hook & Ladder, Palmer’s Bar, 331 Club and Amsterdam Bar & Hall, all searchable via GoFundMe.com. Both the Cedar Cultural Center and Hook & Ladder operate as nonprofit venues, so they also have general donation on their sites or at GiveMN.org.
Springboard for the Arts. This long-reliable funding and resource nonprofit for working artists around Minnesota (including musicians) has not surprisingly stepped up in a big way since the quarantine started. Donations can be made directly to its Personal Emergency Resource Fund via GiveMN.org.
Coloring Books for a Cause. Singer Sean “Har Mar Superstar” Tillmann and a few of his visual-artist pals launched a fun, nonprofit rock ’n’ roll coloring book series to raise money for venues. The second edition of their First Ave coloring book launches next week to benefit the TC Music Community Trust, and they also did ones on Palmer’s, Grumpy’s and the Fargo hangout Harold’s. Order via coloringbooksforacause.com.
Keep buying concert tickets. The shows must go on, or at least they will eventually. Buying tickets to concerts happening after the lockdown will help keep the wheels spinning in the meantime, especially in smaller and midsize venues. And it’s really not much of a gamble. If the gig gets postponed, your tickets will be good at the makeup date. If it gets canceled, you’ll be refunded.
Petitions and lobbying. “We are fortunate to live in a state that values the arts, and especially live music,” reads a Change.org petition started by Minneapolis promoter and artist manager Jeff Taube. Addressed to Gov. Tim Walz and legislators, it aims to create a state fund for out-of-work musicians and entertainment professionals who are not eligible for unemployment. There are a few different national/federal-level petitions of this sort, too, and direct personal correspondence could also make a difference.
Or simply spread the love. If you, too, are among the many people in a tight financial spot during this lockdown, you can still support your local musicians and venues by acting like you’re a member of their street team. Tweet out a song or two by your favorite local acts. Share their Facebook event pages. Like their Instagram posts, even if you don’t like Instagram. More than ever, even these gestures can help.