Q’s With Recording Academy’s Harvey Mason Jr. On MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund

Harvey Mason Jr.
– Harvey Mason Jr.

Harvey Mason Jr., Chair and Interim President/CEO of the Recording Academy, recently checked in with Pollstar to chat about how fundraising efforts are going for MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund and the power of music to bring us together.  

The relief fund was established with an initial donation of $1 million each from both the Recording Academy and MusiCares, totaling $2 million. Recording Academy Chapters havealso pledged to fundraise  in their local communities

Music industry professionals can make initial grant requests up to $1,000 to compensate for cancelled work and to help with basic living assistance (rent or mortgage) by filing an application that includes a proof of cancellation and bookings as well as a copy of a lease agreement or mortgage statement.

When the Relief Fund was announced March 17, MusiCares invited the music community, including labels, streaming service “and anyone who is able to join,” to pitch in. 

Bill Silva Entertainment, StubHub and Universal Music Group are just a few of the music organizations that have stepped up to make major contributions. The Recording Academy and MusiCares announced March 31 that the Latin Recording Academy, Warner Music Group and City National Bank had also donated, along with support from William, Jeff, and Jennifer Gross Family Foundation, George Harrison’s Material World Foundation, the Michael Jackson Estate, Alicia Keys and She Is The Music, and Yoshiki Foundation America.

The news followed a March 24 announcement that Amazon Music, Facebook, SiriusXM and Pandora, Spotify, TIDAL, and YouTube Music had contributed to the Relief Fund. 

Artists are helping out fellow musicians and industry professionals in a variety of ways, including Thomas Rhett releasing the song “Be A Light” (featuring Reba McEntire, Hillary Scott, Chris Tomlin and Keith Urban) on March 30 to benefit the Relief Fund and Better Than Ezra frontman Kevin Griffin raising $40,700 for MusiCares during an acoustic livestream show via Facebook on March 19. 

Harvey Mason Jr., who became the Interim President/CEO of the Recording Academy following the departure of Deborah Dugan in January, is also on the board of directors for MusiCares. 

The longtime songwriter and record producer has penned and produced songs for artists including Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Elton John, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake.  He’s also produced music for films such as “Dreamgirls,” “Pitch Perfect” and “Straight Outta Compton.”
Pollstar: When the Relief Fund was announced you invited the music community, “including labels, streaming services and anyone who is able to join us,” to help with fundraising efforts. How has the response been?
Harvey Mason Jr.: The response has been positive. We’ve reached out to a lot of people; a lot of people have been extremely generous. There’s still more work that needs to be done, more money that needs to be raised and there’s a lot of need in the music community. But we don’t pretend to think we’re the only people who need help. There are problems all around the world and people specifically in our country who need help and people that are having a really hard time so the music community is just one group of people and we are doing the best we can to reach out to the people in our industry that have the means to help. And we’re trying to rally the community behind the people who have needs. 
Can you comment about the contributions that have been raised so far to add to the initial $2 million that the Relief Fund launched with?   
We made an announcement of some of our newest additions to the fund and the people that have contributed so far but we’re not really talking about the amount of money because it’s not about trying to showcase who’s done what or who’s outbid the other person, it’s really about showing the community support and making sure everyone is participating in helping move the needle here, and helping people who need help. It’s been multi-million dollars at this point and we’ll have an announcement at some point coming up as we get a little further down the road. 
A number of artists have done streaming performances to raise money for the MusiCares Relief Fund. Any artists you’d like to shout out for helping with the Relief Fund so far? 
No one in particular. It’s been really helpful and very thoughtful of these artists to contribute their time. For us it’s not only about raising money for MusiCares, it’s also about bringing people together in this isolated time.  
Music can do that, and so I have to commend the artists for going out on different platforms and bringing joy and normalcy to these trying times. It’s been fortunate that many of them have tagged MusiCares and elected to have the funds funneled to MusiCares, which is great and very thoughtful.
I think they understand that MusiCares is here as a service, we’ve been doing this for 30 years, and we’re really good at making sure that the money gets out to people who need it and  we have the infrastructure to do that. I think that’s the reason we’re starting to see some of the artists add them as a beneficiary to their streaming events. 

How has the response been as far as applications for assistance? 
We’ve received over 4,000 requests so far [as of March 26] and the number continues to grow every day. We’ve brought in extra staff at MusiCares to help out in receiving some of the requests, we’re using a lot of employees from the Recording Academy and a lot of people are doing things to help in the way of entering the requests and other things they can do to help. 
It’s a very intense process and I know it’s going to continue, which is why we’re focused on raising more funds for the Relief Fund.  
We know this is not a short-term problem. Of course, we’re trying to do as much as we can, because the need is not going away any time soon. 
Can you comment on where you’re seeing the greatest need – is it musicians or industry professionals?  
 We’re seeing need from a lot of different areas in the music community. Our fund is focused on professionals in the music industry, so creators, artists, singers, musicians, engineers, people who do cartage for tours, lightening engineers, there’s so many people we will serve, but it is restricted to people in the music business who have been professionals for  – originally it was professionals who have been in the business for five years, but because of [COVID-19] we laxed those restrictions to three years.
The initial announcement about the fund noted that “Music industry professionals can make initial grant requests up to $1,000 … if more funding is received, the organization will evaluate the grant amounts available.” Is there any update to this policy?
No not yet, we’re still trying to see what the need is and we’re also trying to continue to raise funds, so it will really be dependent on both of those two things: who needs help, how much money do they need and how much money can we raise? 
Anything else you’d like readers to know about the fund or ways they can help out?
Ways readers can help out is donating directly to the fund; if you’re an artist or a creator, hosting an event on your platforms and funneling the donations to the fund is great, 
Helping us spread the word about musicians and the importance of music in our community and how at a time like this society can benefit from music. We all need to come together and heal and music is going to play an important role in that. 
The team at MusiCares has been working 20 hours a day on this project, the staff has been receiving phone calls and emails. This is not an easy process, this is a process that takes time and care, you have to make sure that the people who are asking [for assistance] are the people who are most in need, you have to evaluate that, then you have to work out how to transfer the money to the right people. This is a process that takes a lot of work, so I want to make sure that we commend the people at MusiCares, including the chair of MusiCares, Steve Boom, who has been working tirelessly on this fund and on making sure that MusiCares is ready to act. 
I think the other thing that’s cool to mention is artists are finding other ways of contributing. Selena Gomez just announced that she’s donating a percentage of her merch to MusiCares; things like that are really exciting. 

SEE MORE: Pollstar’s COVID-19 Live Industry Resource Guide