Supporting Artists During the COVID-19 Pandemic


Peggy Lee says WASH YOUR HANDS.

In times of great collective strife, we inevitably turn to art – we share new music with our friends, we return to shows and films that bring us comfort, we listen to our favourite records. This feels even more true in the crisis we’re currently enduring. We’ve seen countless artists step up to provide free or by-donation streaming concerts, podcasts, interviews, recordings, Instagram stories, and more. Sharing their time and talent is a gift that many artists are choosing to give to bolster their communities right now, and we believe that when possible, we should all do our best to give back to them.

For this blog post, we set out to compile a list of resources both for artists and for the people who want to (and are able to) support them through this unstable period.  We’ll walk you through some suggestions of our own, and also signal boost resources that have been put together by others that may be of help to our community.

If you’re an artist (or work in the arts):

Here’s a list from H.G. Watson at the CBC that compiles many ways artists can seek emergency funding, advocacy groups, online training resources, health & mental health resources, and remote work opportunities. It is regularly updated, so a good one to bookmark.

In particular, the Facebook group I Lost My Gig Canada is a great place to connect with other artists and to stay on top of news and emerging resources as they roll out.

If you want to financially support artists or arts workers:

If you have the flexibility, the best thing you can do for your favourite artists or arts organizations is to give them money. Many folks are unable to do that currently, and we’ll get to non-financial ways you can support the arts shortly, but first, here are some suggestions:

1) Pay for your music!

You have probably heard this already, but streaming doesn’t pay well, and touring is now the main source of income for many artists. So, if you’ve enjoyed a record or a body of work on a streaming platform, this is a great time to consider paying for it! You get to keep the files forever, and the artist actually makes money from your listening. You could also beef up your vinyl collection by buying a physical product and having it mailed to you! It’s a win-win. You can buy music a number of ways – through a platform like Bandcamp, or directly through an artist’s website.

2) Donate to an arts organization!

Especially one you know is working to continue to pay artists, is active in advocacy, or whose large events got cancelled due to COVID-19. Many arts organizations can give you a tax receipt, but you should consider giving even if they can’t! If you bought tickets in advance to a show that got cancelled, you have an especially good opportunity to give back – donate your refund, or take it and give it directly to an artist in need.

Low on funds? Here are non-financial ways you can support artists & arts workers:

3) Write to your representatives and sign petitions!

Consider writing to your MP to advocate for freelance, self-employed, and “gig economy” workers in Canada and the precarity they face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a list of MPs and their emails.

There are also various initiatives putting pressure on the government to enact legislation that would benefit these workers, including rent freezes and broader EI expansions. Consider adding your name to support these initiatives, or including them in your list of concerns when you write to your representative.

4) Share artists’ work on social media, and encourage people with means to give in the ways listed above.

While exposure is not the same as payment, it’s an intensely difficult time to break through the noise for artists who have recent or upcoming releases or who are trying to promote their own work. The news cycle and social media are – understandably – talking about COVID-19 nonstop. Sharing music and art with your community is a powerful way to both break up the monotonous dread of the pandemic news cycle AND bolster the arts community through a difficult time. This is the lowest-barrier way to support artists you know and care about – all it takes is a few clicks.

We hope you’ll consider taking some of these actions, as there are options in this list for folks of all backgrounds & current situations. Above all, we hope you’re keeping safe, washing your hands, and finding solace in your favourite music.

(Photo: Peggy Lee & Meredith Bates performing Echo Painting at the 2018 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival. You can purchase Echo Painting here.)