How to Support Chicago Musicians Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis

COVID-19 has interrupted the flow of daily life for Chicagoans. Gone are the weekends strolling along Lake Michigan, checking the score of the Sox/Cubs Opening Day game, and stopping by your favorite local spot to hear some live music on any given night. 

Musicians, venues, and everyone in-between are taking hard hits, when most of their livelihood depends on performances that have been barred in the era of social distancing. And while occasionally tuning into an Instagram livestream is supportive in itself, the Chicago community needs to come together financially to ensure security to the city’s most vulnerable creators. 

The Chicago Service Relief database is the most centrally organized website to visit to provide support to businesses. Acting as a directory for venues, bars, restaurants, and stores across the city, you can search and find links to business-sponsored fundraisers to assist in their lost revenue. Many of the fundraisers will additionally be distributing their donations back to their employees who are unable to work for their regular hours and tips. Chicago indie-folk musician Spencer Tweedy spearheaded this campaign early on in the COVID crisis, demonstrating how musicians and local businesses rely on each other during times of hardship. As a rule of thumb, just think of what you would have already spent at whichever bar or venue you frequent the most, and consider donating it to a relief fund of your choice. 

As for artists, there are several avenues available from various non-profit organizations. Specific to Illinois is the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund. The application for this $1,500 one-time grant closes on April 8th, 5pm CST. To qualify, the artist or musician must be legally eligible to work in the United States and give proof of their work from the last two years. More information can be found here

On a national level, the Recording Academy’s MusiCares program will also be offering support to musicians and industry professionals who are in the midst of canceling shows. MusiCares requires that applicants be experienced in the music industry for a minimum of five years, and submit six commercially-released singles or videos in the application. The COVID-19 Crisis Fund can be found here and is accepting donations here

The Music Covid Relief website gives a comprehensive overview of the resources that have been made available by the CARES legislation passed federally on March 27th. However, it’s been noted that many younger musicians are finding obstacles with accessibility and meeting the requirements outlined for each prospective fund. The best way to support these musicians at this time is to purchase, stream, and share their music and merchandise. 

Nobody could have predicted the amount of damage this virus would have on Chicago artists, but just remember that the humane option is the best option.