"yeah, maybe 100 or so people will apply and we'll get some donations and I'll have an annoying day with our accountant and a spreadsheet and that'll be that." That was late Thursday afternoon, and wow was I ever wrong. This thing gained a lot of steam, very fast.
2020 had started of wild with the outbreak of Covid-19 throughout the globe. Almost now industry or economy is immune to the massive implications of a global event such as this.
Similar to other industries the world of music had suffered quite an impact. With the cancellation of live shows, events and festivals such as SXSW the physical side of music had completely shut down.
The above situation had caused many venues and musicians a great discomfort and resulted many financial concerns.
Luckily, funds luck Equal sound exists.
Equal Sound strives to introduce listeners to new music by breaking down the traditional confines of musical genres; curating experiences that illuminate the threads between classical music and other genres to attract and engage new audiences from all musical worlds.
And once the Covid-19 health crisis had started they were quick to introduce their new relief fund.
"The Equal Sound Corona Relief Fund was set up on short notice to provide direct financial assistance to musicians who have lost work as a result of Corona-related event cancellations".
We've had the privilege to discuss with Nick Norton, Artistic Director, about their fund, helping musicians in the current crisis and some music.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure. I'm a composer from LA. I grew up playing guitar in bands - mostly in punk, alongside my school's music program - then went to college and grad school for music. Along the way I picked up a pretty wide skill set, and have had jobs in most aspects of music - playing, post production, live sound, management, teaching, marketing....a lot of us have a ton of different gigs in order to survive.
Why/When did you create Equal Sound?
I founded Equal Sound quite a while back with my original partner Andrew Glick, who remains on our board. We actually started it as a business, to see if we could apply to rock/pop/commercial model of presenting concerts to the music we knew well in the avant-garde classical world and experimental music world. It was kind of a side project, and we got some good responses from our audience, but at some point recognized the need to be a 501c3 to really pursue our mission to the fullest.
We re-incorporated as a nonprofit at the end of 2018, and Andrew had just had a kid, and basically told me to go for it and see what I could pull off.
I put on like ten shows in 2019. The idea is to bring music from different worlds together in a way that resonates for audiences from all of them. It was a wild year. It was really hard, but I learned a ton, and met a lot of people who were interested in what we were doing. We had a few more shows planned for this year before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Can you share some info about the programs you offer musicians?
Actually, not really. All of our programs are currently on hold while we address our newly founded Corona Relief Fund, which all of our attention is on. I expect our other programs will survive, but they are on the back burner for the foreseeable future while we address this crisis.
You just launched an emergency fund to help musicians impacted by the CoronaVirus, what made you do that?
I saw a way for us to be helpful. Simple as that. We had the company structure in place to accept donations to musicians' projects.
We were small scale. I figured, "yeah, maybe 100 or so people will apply and we'll get some donations and I'll have an annoying day with our accountant and a spreadsheet and that'll be that."
That was late Thursday afternoon, and wow was I ever wrong. This thing gained a lot of steam, very fast. We are mobilizing a whole team around this effort to ensure that we handle the situation responsibly and ethically, and help the most people possible.
How do you feel the current global health situation will impact music in the long run?
Well, I don't think we should go with feelings on that, we should go with what data we have. And the data right now is that a) things are grim, a whole ton of musicians and their support systems (crew, event staff, etc) are out of work. There's no way around the fact that it is going to be BAD, and we have to accept that in order to do something about it.
That said, to answer the question: I feel surprisingly hopeful.
So many funds and programs like ours have popped up very fast, and it seems like there is a wide interest in helping musicians out. Sorting through the best possible way to do that is going to take a little while. But the interest is there, as is the good will of everyone watching what we—not only Equal Sound, but musicians everywhere—are trying to do to cope with the situation.
And here's the short answer: everyone I've talked with is talking about live streaming. Get ready for A LOT of that in music.
What tips might you have for musicians who were impacted by the current situation?
There are a lot of resources for help, and people might not know where to find them. Of course, they can apply to us for help, at equalsound.org/corona. But there are way more organizations trying to help. A lot of sites have gone up with lists of resources musicians can turn to. Check this for example.
As the physical side of music is shutting down, how would you suggest musicians to leverage the digital side of their music?
Live stream, live stream, live stream. This is going to be an unfortunate career skills test for a lot of people. Every musician should set up a Patreon immediately. Reach out to your mailing lists.
Thing is, you can't do some of these things if you're looking for any ounce of work you can get in every bit of spare time that you have. There are a lot of gatekeepers who have done everything they can to keep digital profits out of musicians' hands for many years. It's going to take a long time to fix that. And people can't do it alone. We're gonna have to team up on this one.
Do you feel the current situation will motivate musicians to start exploring live streaming?
And in a lighter tone, three artists everyone should check while quarantined?
Dan Deacon's new album Mystic Familiar has been my high energy work soundtrack for the last few weeks. I love it, and he is a huge personal inspiration to me.
Also Cheekface's album Therapy Island and my friend Sarah Belle Reid's debut album, which we actually did the release show for with Equal Sound back in October.
Who is the fund intended for? which types of artists?
The fund, at the moment, is for musicians with cancelled work. We are quite certain we are going to expand this to other fields, but we need to have the legal oversight in place before we do that, and music is what we know.
I would also just say that thinking that there are different types of artists is kind of problematic. We are all humans trying to make a living. Some of us have chosen music or art because we care about it. But we're really all in this together, one way or another.
Who is eligible to benefit the coronavirus fund? What are the criteria?
Our line is "musicians who have had work cancelled" and people can define for themselves what that means. We request "some sort of proof" so we have a paper trail in case the IRS ever comes after us, and we request people's W9s so we can track the payments properly when they start rolling. If you don't have a W9, you can download and fill out the form from the IRS site.
Beyond that, we really do not want to be the dictators for what does or does not define a cancelled gig. A person with a cancelled international tour contract might be hurting just as much as a kid in a punk band who had the show they were gonna make $30 on get nixed.
There's a ton of research out there that says any sort of means testing for social programs ends up hurting the people said programs are intended to help. And the number of people who might "cheat," which is a ridiculous thing to even bring up when you're trying to help everyone, is vastly smaller than the number of people in need. If people need help, they should apply.
That said, we have realized that perhaps first come first served is not the most fair way to administer such a fund. It rewards people who happened to be online right when we announced it. Is that fair to someone who found out the next day? I don't know. We are going to ask the input of the people in the fund on solving this question.
How can musicians contact your fund and request assistance?
How can musicians give back in time like this?
Be cool to each other. Everyone is hurting. I'm hurting, and I'm not down with requesting money from this fund because that would be unethical as the guy running it. This situation is not going away anytime soon. If we don't solve it tomorrow, and do a better job solving it because we took a week or two to get it right, be forgiving. Be understanding that everyone is doing their best right now. Give people a break. Maybe that doesn't go for musicians, but for everybody.
If musicians can play and do streams and raise money for themselves or for others in need, please do.
Please spread the word about what we're doing, and about what your fellow musicians are doing. We are working on a system for people to do fundraisers directly on our site, but with their name on it, to raise money for the fund. Got a few more days of coding ahead on that one to make sure it is all secure and works as it should.
People can follow progress on that at equalsound.org/corona.
But really, take care of yourself. You can't put the oxygen mask on the kid next to you if you're not wearing yours first. You have to be able to function in order to give back. Rest a little. Try to watch a movie. Call a friend to see how they are doing. It's incredibly hard, but wow are things like that important. Then, when you're rested, get back to fighting for your economic rights and for your community who has also had your back.
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