Sound & Vision: MusiCares' Laura Segura on COVID-19 Relief for Musicians

Sound and Vision
Emily Fox

KEXP's Sound & Vision airs every Saturday morning from 7-9 AM PT, featuring interviews, artistry, commentary, insight, and conversation to that tell broader stories through music, and illustrate why music and art matter. You can also hear more stories in the new Sound & Vision Podcast. New episodes are out every Tuesday and Thursday. Subscribe now.

MusiCares, the non-profit established by the Recording Academy to support the health and well being of the music community, has been inundated with requests since the start of COVID-19. The 30-year-old organization has seen more than 20,000 applications for funds from musicians and those working in the music industry — and the organization has doled out $19 million in response.

Sound & Vision host Emily Fox spoke with MusiCares executive director Laura Segura about their relief effort and how COVID-19 is exacerbating existing mental health and addiction issues in the music industry.

On what MusiCares is seeing in applications right now:

Just in normal circumstances, that the average musician makes under $25,000 a year, they don't have health insurance, very few have any retirement savings. The artist community has a higher propensity to struggle with mental health and addiction problems. So, if you can imagine that under normal circumstances, you can get a sense of why the need is so great when the work is now gone and that outlet of being able to play your music and share your music is gone. And so, we're seeing a whole range of emergencies happening across medical, dental emergencies, people on the brink of eviction and homelessness.

On who qualifies for MusiCares funds and how they are distributed:

We do require people to demonstrate that they've worked in music for a period of time and then demonstrate the actual need. For example, if someone is facing eviction, we would ask them to show us that proof of the request from their landlord and then submit that to us and then we would process it. We would then work directly with the landlord to release a grant to that landlord. We'd ask them to demonstrate need and then we would work through a third party to issue the financial aid or to set them up with a doctor or whomever it is.

On challenges that musicians have been facing before the pandemic:

They don't have necessarily those traditional support networks around them that maybe you and I are accustomed to. And also, trying to produce art at that level and at the amount you have to produce art in order to be successful in music, that really takes a big toll on people's mental health. And so, I think there's a combination of factors that go into it. Obviously, people's own DNA and background also play a huge role in all of that. But just the social factors around choosing a life as a musician and those that work in music. It can be very difficult.

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