Songwriters, Self-Employed Music Workers Eligible for Relief in Federal Stimulus Bill

Songwriters, along with other “gig economy” workers in the music industry ranging from producers to roadies, will be eligible for grants and loans under the $2 trillion stimulus bill passed by the Senate in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the advocacy organizations Songwriters of North America and Nashville Songwriters Association International announced today. (The House is expected to confirm a counterpart bill on Thursday.)

The bill seeks to pour money into the economy in an effort to preserve millions of endangered jobs and businesses. It would direct payments of $1,200 to most American adults and $500 to children. It would steer $350 billion toward small businesses in an effort to prevent layoffs and push billions more toward hospitals and unemployment insurance, and it would create a $500 billion program for businesses, states and localities.

SONA, NSAI, National Music Publishers Association and other industry groups worked closely with Congressional leaders including Rep. Ted Deutch, (D-FL), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) to include language ensuring that “sole-proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed” workers are included in federal grant and loan programs contained in the bill. Some some individuals may also qualify for unemployment under some provisions of this bill.

The distinction is very important. Most industry creative and support occupations are not eligible for unemployment.  The bill now covers self-employed small-business owners, a category that in music ranges from songwriters to roadies. Under the new bill, self-employed individuals could begin receiving financial aid, through grants and loans, as soon as next month.

“We are grateful to Members of Congress for understanding that songwriters, composers and many others who make a living within the music industry are small business owners,” said Michelle Lewis, Executive Director of SONA. “This will make much-needed relief in the form of small business loans and grants available to all who need it.”

“Many music industry professionals are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits because they are self-employed,” said Bart Herbison, Executive Director of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). “That’s why it was imperative that the federal stimulus package contain language that made them eligible for relief. Now they will be able to apply for immediate financial help for any income they’ve lost over the past few weeks and income they will lose throughout the rest of this year.”

“We are greatly relieved that songwriters, composers and musicians across the country will be helped by the emergency stimulus package passed by the Senate today,” said David Israelite, president/CEO of NMPA. “From paycheck protection and stimulus checks to grants that help with rent and mortgage payments, the legislation will help the creative community – particularly those who qualify as independent contractors, sole proprietors and self-employed – who have been hit hard by this pandemic.

Dina LaPolt, a board member of SONA and top industry lawyer, said, “The United States represents 33% of the global music industry worldwide. We need laws that protect creators and ensure that they are protected from economic destruction.”

“We are grateful that the stimulus bill contains key aid for those in the entertainment industry who cannot work due to a canceled performance or a production shut down,” said Mitch Glazier, chairman/CEO of the RIAA. “Access to unemployment insurance, small business loans and payment deferrals, and more funding for the NEA to provide relief to musicians, will ensure that hundreds of thousands of musicians can continue to pay rent, put food on the table, and care for their children during this public health crisis.”

The organizations also nodded to Congresspeople including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Jim Cooper, Martha Roby, Zoe Lofgren, Sens. Marco Rubio, John Kennedy, Dianne Feinstein and others for their assistance.

SONA will have information on their website to direct songwriters to the best resources on applying for these grants and loans. The bill sets an income eligibility limit of those making under $100,000 annually for some of the programs.


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