GEMA Launches Massive $43 Million Coronavirus Relief Fund for Songwriters

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GEMA’s Berlin offices. (photo: Jivee Blau)

German performance rights (PRO) organization GEMA has established a $43 million relief fund to support its member composers and songwriters financially during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

GEMA will distribute the massive aid package in two phases. The first will center on songwriters who also perform live, as coronavirus prevention measures have made it difficult for artists and other entertainment professionals to appear before crowds and earn a living. The second phase will direct funds towards individual songwriters who’re struggling financially because of the pandemic’s fiscal fallout.

Speaking of the $43 million relief effort, GEMA CEO Dr. Harald Heker said, “GEMA will use all available means to support its existentially threatened members.”

The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on artists and the music community as a whole. Major music festivals, concert series, and industry functions have been put on ice as governments encourage citizens to practice social distancing and stay home, in an effort to curb the virus’s spread and prevalence.

Lacking income from live performances, multiple artists and companies have made substantial cuts. Last week, Zac Brown tearfully informed fans that he’d laid off the vast majority of his longtime road crew, and yesterday, Cirque du Soleil temporarily parted with 95 percent of its employees.

The music industry has responded emphatically to the COVID-19 crisis, and widespread support—from artists, fans, and organizations alike—has proven to be the trying situation’s most positive takeaway. Artists have started livestreaming to (safely) entertain fans, and fans have backed their favorite artists by tuning in.

Last week, the Recording Academy and its charitable wing, MusiCares, donated $2 million to coronavirus relief, while Rihanna and her Clara Lionel Foundation pledged $5 million. Gibson temporarily halted U.S. operations, but not before providing each employee with a $1,000 check.

GEMA is expected to begin distributing the $43 million aid immediately, though it’s unclear how long each of the aforementioned phases will last.