The reality of life for full-time musicians can be generally very bleak, year after year, often receiving less than minimal wage, and being treated less than professionally. The reality of life for full-time musicians during COVID-19 can feel even bleaker. We miss the joy of ensemble music (people playing together). We miss gigging. We miss audience interaction. And yes, we miss getting paid.
On the "top tier level" of importance during COVID-19 are the sick and dying, healthcare workers and essential businesses. Governments are finally acting like they're trying to help them. Social media is flooded with memes, fundraisers and donations for essential personnel, as it should be. "Thank you essential employees." "We love nurses." "We love truck drivers." Their lives are directly and indirectly on the lines, and many have lost theirs.
On the "second tier level" of importance during COVID-19 are both essential and nonessential small businesses, including our compatriots in the entertainment industry - bar/restaurants and bar owners/bartenders/servers. Governments are finally acting like they're trying to help them. It's heartwarming to see social media flooded with memes, fundraisers and donations for small businesses. "Support local." "Virtual tip jar for your favorite bartenders/servers." "Get take-out food and drinks from your favorite restaurant." (Don't forget that GoFundMe and other crowd sourcing sites generally take a hefty commission.)
On the "bottom level" of importance during COVID_19 are us freelancers or "gig workers" as we're referred to as of late. We do not receive a W2 from any employer because we're self-employed. We pay self-employment taxes for Social Security and Medicare, but we do not pay into the unemployment fund. We full-time musicians are aware that there is no paid vacation, no paid sick time, and no retirement matching for us - and we choose to do music anyways because we can't NOT do it. But the bottom line for full-time musicians is that we have to gig if we want to get paid.
There is a distinct absence of memes on social media asking Americans to rally for musicians, hairdressers, nail salon techs, photographers, designers, writers, dancers, etc. Many full-time musicians are now financially unstable. So they're self-promoting themselves online and offering to play for free in the hopes that they will earn tips that they can either pocket or donate. Therefore, the public expects musicians to play for free online, waiting on bated breath for an artist's next free live stream so they can throw $1 or $5 to someone (i) who was told they're not allowed to gig anymore, (ii) who still probably hasn't seen any unemployment funds, and (iii) lives hand-to-mouth anyways. (There are of course a ton of hobbyists who don't need money, and only play music for fun.)
Full-Time musicians in Maryland who depend on gigging for a living have been SOL since the week of March 16, 2020. Virtually all have spouses or partners with day jobs and benefits. However, Charlie and PJ have only each other, and the likelihood of a stimulus check... one of these days. Maryland Unemployment has not allowed us "gig workers" to even apply for PUA (pandemic unemployment assistance) until tomorrow, Friday, April 24, 2020, after which time we'll still be waiting weeks to get approved and actually see any funds. In addition to SNAP food supplement programs (which do no cover toilet paper LOL, cleaning products, trash bags, or BEER lol, etc.), there are musicians' organizations offering financial assistance. But those wells of $200+ run dry very quickly. Rest assured, if there's a musicians' fund out there, you can bet that PJ has applied for it.
As usual, full-time musicians who depend on gigging for a living are left to fend for themselves, or pimp themselves out for free for tips. That doesn't make us feel good when we're already down and out.
Except in Charlie and PJ's case! We apparently have dear friends who care enough about music and Chuggalug to commission us for video performance requests during the pandemic. You, our friends, are a beacon of humanity, love, and friendship. To the few of you clicking 'like' and leaving words of encouragement on our little video works of art...
Thank you for caring about us. <3 That makes us feel good.