We have all been hunkered down for over two months now while confronting the most formidable health emergency in a century. The current pandemic has created serious challenges for members, locals, and the Federation. In what seemed like overnight, the music industry came to a screeching halt, leaving musicians unemployed, sheltered in place, and wondering when the next paying gig will be allowed to take place. Broadway theaters, concert halls, nightclubs, recording studios, venues large and small have been closed.
Shelter-in-place directives have forced the temporary closure of all our Federation offices, while most AFM employees continue to work remotely. The Federation has been focused on ensuring musicians were eligible for unemployment benefits available from states and the federal supplemental amount added to the state benefit. While small businesses can avail themselves of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) helping small businesses keep their employees on the payroll, this support has not been made available to unions. As AFM revenue streams have been severely compromised, locals and the Federation are feeling the effects. While a short duration can be withstood, it has become increasingly clear that this will not be over anytime soon.
In fact, the experts are predicting it will be at least 12 to 18 months before an effective vaccine will become available—and that’s just a best guess. While other businesses may be able to engage in a careful, phased-in opening, it’s hard to imagine the public being willing to enter a concert hall or a theater anytime before a proven effective vaccine is widely available. So we must be ready to endure this for the long term.
Whether a member, a local, or the Federation, preserving resources, reducing expenses, and creating efficiencies are necessary at this time. Before making any purchase, ask yourself if you really need to make this purchase now or can it wait for when times improve? Better yet, ask yourself if you really need to make the purchase at all.
Before COVID-19 changed all our lives, the prevailing financial advice had been to keep six to nine months of emergency funds available for necessary expenses in a crisis. Now, based on the predicted 12 to 18 months it will take to return to some sort of “new normal,” it has become clear the six to nine months of reserves is insufficient.
There will be many lessons learned by all of us as individuals and together as a country while we navigate our way through the current crisis. As individuals, we need to be prepared mentally, physically, and financially for various situations that may well have profound consequences. As a country, I’d like to think we have learned that allowing most of our manufacturing jobs to leave our shores creates a national security risk. Being dependent on other countries to supply us with critical supplies during a crisis can be fraught with danger.
It has been a painful experience for all of us, especially those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. As I hear about some of our AFM members lost to this pandemic, I think about how they spent their lives bringing the joy of music to so many. What a wonderful legacy they have left us all, although their lives were cut short much too early. We will miss them dearly.
Finally, I urge everyone to stay safe and healthy. Please don’t give up hope. I am so looking forward to the day we can all return to the concert halls, theaters, night clubs, and all venues where live music can once again enrich all our lives.