Music industry workers foresee longer recovery period; assistance available

Musicians and hospitality workers try to get by during pandemic

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - This time of year would normally mean big business for musicians and others working in the industry. Instead, many are worried about just getting by.

“We’re just in a more precarious position,” The Howlin’ Wolf owner Howie Kaplan said.

While restaurants and bars could soon re-open with restrictions, Kaplan says he doesn’t foresee business getting back to normal until Fall 2021.

“With a music venue, we don’t see a scenario until there’s some type of cure, some type of treatment or some kind of vaccine where people are gonna want to sit with 500 other people to watch a show, which means it’s not just affecting the venue but it affects those who play there, the people that work there, the production companies,” explained Kaplan.

Kaplan partnered with New Orleans Music Clinic five weeks ago to get meals to what he calls the city’s “culture bearers." They’re doing over thousand meals a week, now, and are expanding to delivery April 22.

“With musicians, you can’t just find another gig. They can’t just find another place. A lot of these gigs are booked out, not the day of but booked months and months in advance,” Kaplan said.

“Right now, the most important thing is that we save their lives and that means that they can’t be out playing. They have to stay home,” said Co-Founder and Director of New Orleans Musicians Clinic Bethany Bultman.

Bultman heads up the group working with Kaplan to give out meals. New Orleans Musicians Clinic is a nonprofit offering comprehensive healthcare and social services, which includes providing assistance to struggling musicians and gig workers.

“A lot of our musicians do not exist on paper. They live in a gray economy,” Bultman said. “When you don’t have a bank account and you don’t pay taxes, it’s very hard, even if someone is helping you fill out the application."

There are grants available, like the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation’s program. They’re currently working to distribute money to over 2,000 approved applicants before accepting more applications. So far, they’re over halfway through. There is also the New Orleans Business Alliance grant, which awards $500 to gig workers. Applications have also been temporarily suspended there.

“People are really struggling and the struggle is for basic necessities. Their bills are adding up, the rent payments are stacking up,” said New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno.

Moreno calls on the community to support those industries and businesses affected.

“Any little bit of financial help that can be provided is super impactful to so many people right now,” said Moreno.

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