With the end of July marking the end of enhanced unemployment benefits, working songwriters and composers are facing another financial hurdle, to the tune of as much as $600 a week in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.
Anticipating another crisis moment, performance rights organizations ASCAP, BMI and SESAC joined together with trade orgs National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), the Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL), Songwriters of North America (SONA), Songwriters Guild of America (SGA) and Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), to deliver a letter to Congress urging the continuation of benefits for self-employed individuals and small businesses in the next government stimulus package.
The orgs’ last request was on March 19, a week after what many consider to be the beginning of the United States’ government-mandated closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. As the letter lays out: “Although we have taken steps to minimize the impact on this important source of income for songwriters and composers, the prolonged duration of the closures, and the recent announcements that additional closures will be required only amplifies the need for additional relief. In addition, the impact on live music has come into greater focus since our initial letter. According to many estimates, touring and live concerts may not resume until 2021 at the earliest.”
Addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and minority leader Kevin McCarthy in addition to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and minority leader Chuck Schumer, read the letter, delivered today (July 20), below:
Thank you for your leadership and the expedited steps taken early to provide relief to millions of Americans who were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We would like to thank you for working with the songwriting industry to ensure self-employed individuals were made eligible for enhanced benefits under the CARES Act. If not for your engagement, and the engagement of others in Congress, many of our members would not have been eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI), Small Busines Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), and the then-newly created Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). While these critical benefits have provided much-needed relief to songwriters and composers during the pandemic, it is clear additional help is needed. With that in mind, we urge you to consider the unique circumstances of the self-employed and ask you to extend these critical benefits in the next stimulus package.
In our letter to you dated March 19, 2020, our initial request for assistance highlighted the impact government-mandated closures in the retail, restaurant, fitness, theater, live concert and hotel industries would have on public performance royalties. Although we have taken steps to minimize the impact on this important source of income for songwriters and composers, the prolonged duration of the closures, and the recent announcements that additional closures will be required only amplifies the need for additional relief.
<In addition, the impact on live music has come into greater focus since our initial letter. According to many estimates, touring and live concerts may not resume until 2021 at the earliest. Touring and live performances are a significant portion of income for many of those we represent, and at this stage it appears this income stream is unlikely to come back anywhere close to normal levels in the near future.
<Similarly, TV and film production were shut down during the initial round of closures and in many locations is only expected to reopen as part of Phase 4. Even that point, with the recent spike in COVID cases in important locations like Los Angeles, seems far off. We expect capacity will be limited and it will be far from business as usual. This has severe repercussions for composers, their work, and their livelihood and income.
Since it appears that we are a long way off from a rapid recovery or a return to normalcy in our industry, it is imperative that unemployment benefits, disaster loans/grants, and PPP are extended and continue to be available for the self-employed. While these programs have not fully captured and appreciated the nature of how self-employed individuals and small businesses operate, they remain critical for many songwriters, composers and their families during this time of extreme uncertainty. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress on making improvements to ensure they can fully access the benefits they are entitled to.
Thank you for your assistance and consideration. We appreciate your attention to the issues facing our industry and our nation’s music creators.