The uncertainty and apparent threat surrounding COVID-19 is impacting arts organizations and artists worldwide. In the wake of canceled performances and postponed engagements, orchestral players, freelance musicians, and even audiences are turning to the arts community for support.
Here are three ways arts nonprofits are providing immediate assistance to musicians while adjusting their fundraising strategies to prepare for upcoming financial burdens.
1. The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center has canceled concerts for the rest of March but offered a livestream of the latest chamber concert free of charge. Understanding they cannot stop fundraising even while their performances are postponed, the nonprofit is asking patrons to consider donating their purchased tickets to support the organization.
The Berlin Philharmonic has taken this one step further. Though the orchestra has cancelled performances through April 19th, they have made their digital concert hall free for the next month. This serves not only the people stuck at home during this time of uncertainty but also effectively markets the group’s online presence in the long run. From a fundraising and business perspective, these efforts will likely increase subscriptions and ticket sales as a byproduct of temporarily allowing consumers to enjoy world class music for free from the comfort of their homes.
2. The Boston Center for the Arts, a nonprofit serving Boston-area musicians, has partnered with the Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture to repurpose their Opportunity Fund—which typically provides grants to support individual artists and access to the arts—as the Boston Artist Relief Fund. The fund now compensates artists for income lost due to coronavirus-related cancellations.
3. Many charitable endeavors are popping up in a less official but equally effective capacity. The Artist Relief Tree is a Facebook page set up by five professional musicians that is being circulated among the arts community. In the first week, this effort raised more than $175,000 and offers $250 to artists whose income has been disrupted by the pandemic.
These responses to the COVID-19 crisis affirm Tocqueville’s observation that, in America, “Each new need immediately awakens the idea of association.” There are even associations tracking the associations: Creative Capital is regularly updating a list of resources available to struggling artists. As an added benefit, these responses are increasing the groups’ social media presence, ensuring they are doing as much as possible to keep up fundraising in the face of empty concert halls.
For these artists and nonprofits, the show (and the fundraising) must go on.