Public Letter Seeks ‘Path Forward’ For Musicians


Amirtha Kidambi is among the artists who have signed the “Public Letter of Concern by Working Artists for Ethical Cancellations.”

(Photo: Chris Weiss)

As initiatives to assist musicians during a time of lost and postponed gigs due to the coronavirus pandemic continue to roll out—including the Louis Armstrong Emergency Relief Fund for Jazz Musicians and COVID-19 Arts Aid PHL—a public letter asks that cultural institutions work with performers on finding a solution.

Vocalist and bandleader Amirtha Kidambi said that about 400 musicians, including Vijay Iyer, Mary Halvorson, Matana Roberts and Marc Ribot, have signed on to the “Public Letter of Concern by Working Artists for Ethical Cancellations.”

“I started this initiative particularly because I’m a bandleader, and saw a path forward for immediately getting money to pay out to my band, which they expected before April 1. ... This is one particular short term solution, that will only deal with previously contracted gigs that were scheduled to take place in the near future,” Kidambi wrote in an email to DownBeat. “[The letter] does not address the government or other potentially initiatives. While the response [to economic concerns has been] diffuse, I think it is important to work on every possible front, as the timeline to get money from a grant or from the city/state/federal government would be much further out. We have to work on multiple fronts. Not everyone will be able to apply for emergency grants, unemployment or other funding, so there needs to be other ways to get folks money.”

The letter, which initially was posted March 31 and has no deadline to sign on, outlines three main objectives: artists garnering a percentage of fees for previously arranged performances, renegotiating postponed events and the development of alternative performance models.

The letter can be read in full here. DB