The Year In Philanthropy: Live Music Steps Up To Take Care Of Its Own

Drive-Through Donations:
– Drive-Through Donations:
Volunteers from Rhino Staging & Musically Fed give out boxes of food to crew members in need.

The economic toll of the pandemic has brought about devastating unemployment and food insecurity. And no other industry may be hit as hard as live, with COVID restrictions banning in-person events still in place nine months after the pandemic began leaving more than 12 million live event workers out of work. Despite the hardships they’re facing, countless individuals and companies within the music business have stepped up to help give back and take care of their own. 

Many artists have volunteered their time by putting on ticketed livestream performances that benefit nonprofits, as well as using their platforms to bring awareness to charities. One major event was the eight-hour “One World: Together At Home” livestreamed benefit concert on April 18 that raised $127.9 million for the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, along with local and regional and charities including Feeding America and United Way. Organized by Global Citizen and curated by Lady Gaga, the lineup featured Paul McCartney, Elton John, Lizzo, Taylor Swift, John Legend and other stars. 
Philanthropist-minded artists including Rihanna and Jay-Z have donated millions to relief efforts through their respective foundations, while Dolly Parton donated $1 million to coronavirus research at Vanderbilt University, which helped fund Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. 
Soon after COVID shut down tours in March, Live Nation announced the creation of Crew Nation relief fund to benefit crew members, with an initial $5 million upfront contribution and a commitment to match the next $5 million in donations. By August the fund had raised $15 million, helping 15,000 crew members across 36 countries.
The Recording Academy and its affiliated charitable foundation MusiCares established the COVID-19 Relief Fund in mid-March to help artists and touring professionals whose livelihood have been drastically impacted by the pandemic including loss of work, medical diagnosis, threat of eviction, and other personal emergencies.  The fund was started with $1 million donations each by MusiCares and the Recording Academy, with an invitation to the music community, including labels, streaming service “and anyone who is able to join,” to pitch in with relief efforts. Bill Silva Entertainment, StubHub, Universal Music Group are just a few of the music organizations that have stepped up to make major contributions, along with support from George Harrison’s Material World Foundation, Alicia Keys and She Is The Music and many others.
MusiCares announced Dec. 2 that it is continuing its COVID-19 relief efforts by launching “Help For The Holidays” aid program, offering $250 essential goods e-cards to the first 4,000 eligible applicants.  Musicians and event professionals with at least three years of past employment in the industry who have been impacted by loss of income due to live music event cancellations can apply.

“2020 has been a year of immense hardship; one of disconnect, hardship and loss. And for those in the music industry, life remains uncertain as the global pandemic continues to devastate our landscape. The support and emergency aid we have distributed to date has been truly life changing for so many, Laura Segura, Executive Director of MusiCares told Pollstar. “For us, the impact lies with the amount people we’ve been able to help during this challenging time, especially live event and tour workers who are still out of work and suffering.  Since our COVID-19 Relief efforts launched in March, we have distributed more than $20 million to help more than 20,000 music people and we will continue even through the holidays and into 2021. We have the utmost gratitude for everyone who partnered to help provide for our music community in this challenging year.” 
Like the best organizations, Musically Fed has pivoted during the pandemic to be relevant. The nonprofit founded by Insight Management and Music’s Maria Brunner would normally be collecting unused backstage catering from concerts to donate to community organizations that feed the homeless and hungry. During the pandemic, Musically Fed has teamed up with production companies and promoters to have volunteers sort and package donated food and then distribute boxes of meals, fresh produce and dry goods to the families of live event workers via COVID-safe, drive-through events. 
“Our core team of Jake Berry, Terry Burke [of Live Nation], Charlie Hernandez [of Just A Bunch of Roadies] and Jeff Giek [of Rhino Staging] helped us to set goals and develop a unique event that would benefit hundreds of gig workers nationwide,” Brunner told Pollstar. “Insomniac and JT Pro Lab joined our endeavors shortly after Musically Fed developed the car drive-through, with Rhino being the host team and facilitator.”
After its first drive-through event in Phoenix, Ariz., on April 15, Musically Fed’s relief efforts have expanded across the country with events in Denver, Nashville, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Los Angeles. Drive-through events have continued in Phoenix twice a month, with Bandit Lites and Clair Global taking turns hosting. Since the pandemic began, Musically Fed has provided 122,462 meals, including meals that will be served through the end of December.

Reflecting on life prior to COVID-19, Brunner previously told Pollstar when being interviewed as part of Pollstar‘s Impact 50: “There was too much emphasis on the economic bottom line and not enough concern for those serving on the front lines. My hope is that we’ll now not only be working to be productive and survive, but to create new ways of working together for the collective good of our industry. Each one of us has so much to offer.” 

Nonprofit Just a Bunch of Roadies has also shifted its focus from overseas humanitarian projects to concentrating on helping fight hunger in the United States by helping organize drive-through food distributions and financing a food truck for Minnesota’s Loaves and Fishes to bring food to those who are struggling. 
Co-founder Charlie Hernandez encourages supporters to reach out to their local food banks. “We’ve sent out a call of action to all of our friends, all of our supporters that now is the time to find a food bank near you and go directly to them,” he tells Pollstar. “We’ll be here, there will be plenty of things to do, but right now we’re pushing the message to get those funds to those food banks, try to get food to people, try to feed these kids. It’s really, really critical right now. 
“Winter is here and with COVID we’re losing one person a minute in the United States. We have a lot of work to do. But in the end we’ll endure, we’ll recover, we’ll all end up [at a concert] at some rotten field in the rain, up to our necks in mud, doing what we do best, laughing. It’ll happen but right now we really need to concentrate on a bit of a silent issue in our industry – and that’s food insecurity. If you help one person it will make a difference. … There’s no such thing as a small act of kindness.”
Hernandez adds that those who are in need shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help. 
“Our industry and people that work in it are so self-reliant and so hard-working that the idea of reaching out for relief is so antithetical to what their lives have been. But we say that now is the time to reach out for help. … There’s hope, you’re not alone. It can seem dark, and it can get dark. But you’re not alone.”