Downtown Boys co-launch petition for musician unemployment benefits

Photo: Ben Stas for Vanyaland

Among those who signed are Bikini Kill, Neutral Milk Hotel, Wolf Parade, Snail Mail, Speedy Ortiz, Evan Greer, Haasan Barclay and others.

As musicians continue to feel the financial crunch of lost performances from COVID-19-related gig cancellations and postponements, Downtown Boys and members of the No Music For ICE campaign have co-launched a petition that demands unemployment benefits for musicians. 

The petition requests that the next Federal relief package “includes the extension of unemployment and other benefits to all musicians, DJs, and all gig economy workers who have lost their income due to COVID-19. Workers should be able to use any income — including 1099 earnings and demonstrable anticipated future income wiped out by COVID-19 — to apply for unemployment and other benefits.”

Many artists have already signed the petition, including Bikini Kill, Neutral Milk Hotel, Wolf Parade, and Snail Mail, as well as Massachusetts’ own Speedy Ortiz, Potty Mouth, Evan Greer, and Haasan Barclay of Camp Blood. 

“While all workers are suffering right now, musicians, touring workers, DJs and other gig economy workers are particularly hurt because we are ineligible for unemployment, paid sick leave, or other benefits under our current system,” the petition states. “We pay significant amounts in income tax to the state and federal government, but because most of us are categorized as self-employed, we are unable to access the same benefits as those with single-employer jobs.” 

The petition notes that IATSE and SAG-AFTRA are also asking for “similar measures,” emphasizing that these are not radical requests for entertainment workers. 

“Musicians and DJs make the majority of their money by performing and touring, especially in the age of streaming services, which have significantly reduced recording income,” the petition adds. “Coronavirus has cancelled all performances, and so musicians have instantly witnessed all their income vanish. It could be months or longer before life returns to normal in the US, and even longer before we can host concerts again. Musicians need immediate relief now.”

Read the full petition here.