Many independent musicians and artists have spent the past two years walking on eggshells, risking their own money to plan tours and shows that could be canceled.
But under New York State’s new budget deal, which was announced Thursday and awaits final approval, musicians and artists who have been negatively impacted by coronavirus protocols would be eligible to apply for funding through a $200 million seed funding program.
Performers and artists who have invested money in a performance or appearance canceled for Covid-related reasons could be eligible for retroactive grants from the program, said State Senator Brad Hoylman, one of the main promoters. of the fund. He sees it as an addition to the state’s $800 million COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant program, which was created last year and to which freelance and self-employed arts workers do not. are not eligible.
“They are the first gig workers, and what we have seen in recent months is that after the second wave of Covid ended, they were free to take gigs across the country and around the world,” said Mr. Hoylman, who represents parts of Midtown and Lower Manhattan. “Many of them were away from home, ready to work when a band member got sick, or they got sick themselves.”
Mr Hoylman, who worked alongside Music Workers Alliance to develop the new fund, added that many of these artists were stuck in other cities and countries as Covid surged during the Delta and Omicron waves, “unable to pay their expenses and return home because their concerts and appearances have been cancelled.
Marc Ribot, 67, a Brooklyn-based touring guitarist, said he and his fellow musicians make most of their money on tour.
“I toured with my band Ceramic Dog in Europe in late November and early December, and I can tell you it was like swimming two or three feet past a shark,” Mr. Ribot said. “We played in Berlin and two nights later Berlin closed, and it was like that in more than one city. We lost two gigs, and I think another one or two went on air in direct.
These cancellations, he said, can cost thousands of dollars per ride in non-refundable air and train tickets and accommodation.
“What looked like an 18 month vacation on the outside was, on the inside, 18 months where I always had gigs that I had to practice and prepare for,” he said. . “Then you find out three weeks or two weeks in advance: ‘Actually, that’s not possible.’ No one wants to cancel until they’re sure.
But as part of the budget deal, someone like Mr Ribot could apply for grants to claw back some of that money.
Musicians and artists “took gigs once the restrictions were lifted, but the surge ended up killing their immediate prospects for work,” Hoylman said, adding that he believed New York owed them a helping hand.
“Artists are the engine of our city’s cultural identity,” he said.