Many of us are missing the pleasure of live music as we socially distance during COVID-19—we feel for the performers with cancelled tours and the empty venues with calendars indefinitely TBD. But let’s not forget the professional technicians who make great shows possible. When concert seasons are suspended, crew members working behind the scenes are hit just as hard as those on stage.
Crew Nation, a partnership between Live Nation and Music Forward, has stepped up to support this community worldwide by launching a Global Relief Fund for Live Music Crews. Live Nation has pledged $10 million ($5 million of initial funding and a match to contributions made by artists, fans, and employees), with Music Forward managing the fund and facilitating the grants process.
What Crew Nation did
On April 13, Crew Nation opened applications for its relief fund to touring and venue crew members impacted by COVID-19, including front of house and backstage personnel, who make at least half of their income from the field.
The first round of applications, which closed May 1, was limited to those with revenue losses related to shows in March and April, with future application rounds to cover later dates. Single grants of $1,000 will be awarded, with an overwhelming number of applications from across the globe already received.
According to Executive Director of Music Forward Nurit Smith, “The relief fund was a passion point because of all of the workers that power the live music world. When COVID-19 happened, everybody went into emergency mode, looking to see what the need was, what was already out there, and where there were gaps—it became clear quickly that there wasn’t a safety net for crew members.”
As Nurit observes, part of a good crew’s strength is its relative invisibility, making it easier for this group’s need to go unnoticed.
“You know, with the people in crews,” Nurit says, “when they are doing their job right, we don’t know they are there.”
How they did it
The team at Crew Nation moved to launch their global fund quickly, a massive undertaking with lots of moving pieces. According to Elisa Morimoto, Director of Operations at Music Forward, adaptability was key.
“When you do something of this volume and this speed,” Morimoto says, “the ability to be flexible, to see how it rolls and to be able to respond, is essential.”
For Crew Nation, this meant being open to feedback and adjusting procedures as necessary once applications were coming in.
As Morimoto observes, “Being able to see what’s happening in the application is important—so is listening to outreach. The team at Submittable got applicant questions over to us so we could add instructions or add guidance. Just being responsive and being able to be flexible is very critical I think when you’re doing something of this speed and scale.”
Smith also acknowledges the importance of regularly tracking Crew Nation’s application and review workflow.
“Being able to constantly check in on the process,” Smith says, “is essential because there are things we couldn’t have known going into this.”
In some cases, Crew Nation made decisions and adaptations for efficiency and speed.
According to Smith, “It was important for Elisa and the team that she’s managing that feedback constantly be coming back to her, seeing where the applications were moving quickly, where they were slowing down, creating reviewer teams to help with that—you know, that whole process and being quick to make adjustments as needed.”
Live Nation and Music Forward have worked together in the past, and their collaboration on this fund allowed them to use the best from both organizations to maximize impact. The timing was also fortuitous.
As Smith recalls, “Music Forward as an operational nonprofit has had philanthropy woven through the organization since its inception 27 years ago. Interestingly enough, we were building up for collective impact community grants and other quick artist grants to roll out this year in 2020 but in the end we ended up rolling out a global fund that was exceptionally larger.”
The team at Crew Nation has also valued their work with Submittable.
“It’s been such a critical relationship from the beginning with Submittable,” Smith says, “from the moment Elisa reached out that Submittable was available to conceptualize and build and execute with us.”
Morimoto also expresses appreciation for the human connection she was able to forge with Submittable’s team.
“Our account manager Ben, and also Christine from Onboarding who helped build the fund, they showed tremendous care and commitment and compassion. The team went above and beyond to help us pull the application together and that was absolutely critical in order for us to pull this off.”
As technological systems are strained by new and dramatic usage during COVID-19, it’s the humans behind the systems that can make all the difference.
As Morimoto shares,
That’s what you need in these times. You’re looking for human commitment and capacity and desire.
“There were things that we couldn’t predict,” she continues, “like when we realized we could use a more personalized touch to our communications for folks that were having trouble with their application, we switched our process. And I think that the ability to do that thinking with Christine and Ben comes from a very human place of understanding that allows us to be creative with the technology of it. In finding your team and your partners, what seems most critical is to be able to align on those values and those human characteristics.”
Although the fund is focused on providing immediate relief, Crew Nation is also looking to the future.
According to Smith, “The hope is that we’re building stronger systems through this partnership, a stronger network and stronger safety nets so that we come out of this in a healthier way.”
The fund is already providing important data about the crew industry, including information regarding how challenging it can be for some people to ask for help.
“I think that, not just with crews, but there’s a pride,” says Smith, “that for some has made it hard to even apply for this. And we’ve seen some of the notes that have come through thanking us so much for it and that they never thought they would be in this place.”
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Live shows are not possible without the incredibly hardworking crew members behind the scenes each and every concert. We are extending a helping hand to those workers who need it the most by announcing the #CrewNation Fund. We are committed to donating $10 million: $5M upfront, and we’ll match the next $5M. Visit the link in our profile to donate or buy merch now. Help spread the word by tagging your own concert crew below!
Crew Nation is continuing to fundraise, acknowledging that the pandemic will likely dictate the length, timeline, and depth of the fund.
“There are a lot of artists,” Smith says, “including highly visible artists, who are committing dollars, merchandise, or awareness, and their fans are helping to support and so it’s become a really connected space in support of these crews.”
All donations will go directly to grants for impacted crew. Music Forward, an organization dedicated to programming for young people aged 12-22, is also continuing to seek support, with a special auction live now.
“Fundraising is tricky in this time,” Smith says, “but we know that Music Forward’s programs for both the young people we serve and for the educators are important. And then through Crew Nation, we can ensure that we’re bringing young people into a healthy, vibrant, and connected industry.”
Learn about how Submittable can help your organization respond to COVID-19. For more on groups like Crew Nation giving back through emergency grants, check out recent COVID-19 Response profiles.