The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), the Recording Academy, BMI, SoundExchange, and 16 other music industry organizations have called on Congress to provide financial assistance to the live event space.
The Artist Rights Alliance (ARA), SESAC, and the Music Artists Coalition joined the RIAA in signing the letter, which was sent to all four congressional leaders (and shared with Digital Music News) today. Moreover, the approximately 500-word-long message arrives about six weeks after the RIAA, Live Nation, Universal Music Group, and other companies sent Congress a different letter yet, also requesting government aid.
This newest inquiry begins by reiterating the unprecedented disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic has created in the live entertainment sphere. Per survey results, a substantial portion of musicians are considering leaving the music industry because they’re unable to earn a living. Predictably, venues are suffering financially due to coronavirus concerns and lockdown restrictions, and in turn, so are behind-the-scenes professionals.
In terms of aid specifics, the RIAA and other signers first request that Congress “renew and extend existing benefits,” including the CARES Act’s expired weekly unemployment “bonus,” and pass the RESTART Act, which was introduced in May and has been stuck in committee since June. Then, the letter urges Congress to also pass the Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Act, which would retool federal unemployment benefit requirements for gig workers.
Next, with the exact return window for crowd-based events still uncertain, lawmakers should both expand and pass the $10 billion Save Our Stages Act “to provide sufficient assistance for small venues and multi-use publicly owned venues” as well as their employees, the letter indicates. The fourth component of the letter calls on legislators to vote on the HITS Act as well as the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act, which would reform above-the-line tax deductions for artists.
Here’s the full letter that the RIAA, NMPA, and others sent to Congress:
Dear Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer and Leader McCarthy,
There is no denying that COVID-19 has truly tested the nation, and it has had a devastating effect on our country’s music industry. The live music business – once a sign of a thriving community and a draw to our cultural and commercial centers – has gone tragically silent. The music community remains grateful for Congress’ bipartisan relief efforts earlier this year, but more must be done soon to avoid a level of loss that that could devastate artists, musicians, engineers, producers, venues, and everyone in the music industry for a generation.
First, Congress must renew and extend existing benefits that have proved indispensable, including the weekly funding provided through Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. Congress must also act to pass the RESTART Act, to build on the short-term relief provided by the Paycheck Protection Program.
Second, Congress must fix an unintended error in the CARES Act by passing the Mixed Earner Pandemic Unemployment Act. Mixed earners, or gig workers with a minimum amount of W-2 income, have been excluded from Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and overly burdensome PUA documentation requirements are out of step with the workplace realities of the gig economy.
Third, with no clear direction on when safe public gatherings may resume, Congress must expand the current form of the Save Our Stages Act and pass it to provide sufficient assistance for small venues and multi-use publicly owned venues. 77% of people in the live events industry have lost 100% of their incomes, including 97% of 1099 workers. These people work at venues of all sizes and in a variety of capacities – whether it be full-time, part-time, or on the side as a gig worker. With uncertainty surrounding the resumption of live events, most of these workers are still struggling to make ends meet. Providing direct financial relief to the workers of all venues is critical to keeping local communities afloat. Indeed, dollars spent to keep venues open have a multiplier effect, as live music brings patrons to hotels, restaurants, and other small businesses that are also struggling to survive. Expanding Save Our Stages to include all different types of live events workers – and not excluding them simply for where they work – will help revitalize our economy at the ground level.
Fourth, Congress must do more to ensure workers can keep their job-based healthcare plans during this pandemic. We believe Congress should expand employer retention tax credits and pass a 100% COBRA premium subsidy to ensure that job disruptions through no fault of their own don’t cost Americans their health as well as their livelihoods.
Finally, Congress must ensure that tax relief reaches musicians and workers in the performing arts by passing the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act and the HITS Act.
Like many in 2020, our community has come together to speak with one voice to ensure that we all can enjoy better days in the future together. We hope that with your leadership, Congress, in the upcoming lame duck session, will take this clear opportunity to save American music, culture, and countless small businesses. Thank you for your consideration.
Academy of Country Music
Artist Rights Alliance
Broadcast Music, Inc.
Christian Music Trade Association
Church Music Publishers Association Action Fund
Country Music Association
Gospel Music Association
Music Artists Coalition
Music Managers Forum – US
National Music Publishers Association
Production Music Association
Recording Industry Association of America
Society of Composers & Lyricists
Songwriters of North America
Southern Gospel Music Guild
The American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers
The Living Legends Foundation, Inc
The Rhythm & Blues Foundation, Inc