Guide for Artists and Fans to Support Music During the COVID-19 Outbreak

photo by Bebe Labree

As COVID-19 continues to persist, the music industry is facing major financial hurdles. With the European travel ban, Washington state’s mandate to halt public gatherings of more than 50 people, postponement of major events and festivals like SXSW, Coachella, as well as tours – let alone the health risks – there’s significant trouble being caused for artists, venues, and promoters. 

In trying times like these, the music community must come together and support one another. Below we’ve outlined some of the resources available to artists impacted by COVID-19 as well as ways us music fans can do our part to support.  

We will add more resources to this article as they arise. 

For Musicians

Be in Contact with Local Health Departments

First and foremost for artists is ensuring your health is not at risk by performing out. While many venues and festivals are making the call on whether or not they continue forward with events, artists should be in contact or monitoring updates with local health departments, both at home in Seattle and other cities on tour, to verify the latest conditions and make the decision whether or not it is wise to play your upcoming gig. 

Deciding to cancel or delay a show is never an ideal scenario for an artist who largely depend on touring and merch sales for revenue, but health risks should be a priority concern. 

King County keeps an updated resource page detailing health concerns and instructions for how the general public should proceed. 

Track Your Losses 

While there is still much uncertainty on how artists may recoup money lost from canceled events and tours, artists should be diligent in tracking the impact of COVID-19 on their work and income. Be sure to document records of cancellations, losses from ticket sales and refunds, and any other relevant from COVID-19. Though it is unclear what financial assistance for artists might look like in the future, equipping yourself with this information can help you make a case for yourself should a solution arrive. The State of Washington has also compiled resources for small businesses, which can be found here.   

Know the Health Resources Available to You

Access to healthcare continues to be an issue for musicians. Because most artists operate effectively as freelancers in the gig economy, they lack access to employer-backed health insurance and costs can be prohibitive for many musicians. Thankfully there are organizations like MusiCares and local non-profit SMASH (Seattle Musicians Access to Sustainable Healthcare) offering access to affordable healthcare services.

These organizations are always available, but as the COVID-19 outbreak continues artists may consider utilizing these services both as preventative care as well as treatment should they begin to feel sick. 

Apply for Relief Funding from Local Organizations and Crowdsourced Campaigns

Many organizations and individuals are stepping up to help artists who are seeing major financial losses due to COVID-19. Seattle writer Ijeoma Oluo has organized a GoFundMe for a Seattle Artist Relief Fund to help artists recoup funds lost for canceled shows and events – interested artists can apply here. (Other cities are launching similar campaigns, like the Tucson Musicians COVID19 Relief GoFundMe.) A similar GoFundMe campaign has been started by Nate Omdel specifically assisting music educators. For non-artists, we highly recommend donating to either of these campaigns to help create the funds needed to support artists.

On a broader scale, the Seattle Foundation has started its own COVID-19 response fund aimed at supporting community-based organizations that are being impacted by the outbreak. 

For Music Fans

Buy Music and Merch

While this is something we’d certainly recommend under any circumstances, one of the best ways you can support your favorite artists right now is by supporting their art. Bummed your favorite new band canceled their upcoming show? Buy one of their records! Have all their records? Check and see if they have any merch you can order. Have all their merch? Congrats, you’re clearly a super fan! Consider making a donation to them by purchasing a digital copy of one of their records through their Bandcamp page.

We strongly recommend buying from the artist as directly as possible – their official website or Bandcamp pages are likely your best bet. If those aren’t available options, consider picking up their LP from your favorite neighborhood record store; that way you can support the artist as well as local businesses that are also being impacted by the outbreak. No matter your approach, consider the best way to get dollars back into the pockets of the bands who are suffering major financial losses right now.  

Share The Music You Love

At KEXP, we are lucky that we get to share music we love with listeners around the world every day. You can also champion artists yourselves. Especially as artists are needing more support in this current moment, consider sharing music with your friends and social media followers.

It may seem like a small action, but it can have a big impact on artists. Expanding the reach of their music means bringing in more fans who may, in turn, buy tickets for future shows, buy their albums, and stream their music. If you want to go the extra mile, buy an album and gift it to a friend or loved one who you think might enjoy it. Not only will this help support artists, but you also get the joy of helping someone possibly discover their next new favorite band or songwriter. 

Donate Your Unused Tickets Back to Venues and Music Organizations

Artists aren’t the only ones reeling from the Covid-19 outbreak. Venues are finding themselves facing serious financial losses already with potential for more should this carry on. If you don’t feel comfortable attending an event because of COVID-19, consider donating your ticket back to the venue. Likewise, if a show is canceled reach out to the venue and ask about donating your ticket fee back to the venue/organization. While it may feel like a financial sting or loss in the moment, consider it an investment in your future show-going experiences.

If you have a question regarding a show cancellation or wondering about the future of upcoming events, reach out to the venue directly over email and follow them closely on social media.  

If You’re Sick, Don’t Go to the Show

King County and the State of Washington have issued orders canceling all public gatherings of 250 or more, including concerts. King County has also issued strict guidelines ensuring health and safety for gatherings of fewer than 250 people. These limitations will mean that many shows will be canceled or postponed. But for shows that are still on, please take care of yourself and your fellow fans by staying home from shows when you’re sick. 

Those we are over 60-years-old, have underlying medical conditions, weakened immune systems, or are pregnant should take extra precautions. Additionally, remember the Public Health recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID 19. 

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Cover your mouth/nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing

For more comprehensive advice on how you can do your part to stop the spread of illness, consult this guide from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Related News & Reviews


A Statement from KEXP on COVID-19

Executive Director Tom Mara shares a statement on KEXP's response to COVID-19.

Read More
Mastering the Hustle

Mastering the Hustle: Health and Personal Care in the Music Industry

KEXP, Upstream Music Fest + Summit, MoPOP, and The Recording Academy have partnered together to present Mastering the Hustle: a panel discussion with six annual events, tackling a different topic to help emerging artists make better decisions earlier in their careers. Throughout the series, we’ll b…

Read More