Musicians chief: New York faces cultural depression

Musicians chief: New York faces cultural depression


norman lebrecht

October 26, 2020

Adam Krauthamer, president of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, has published a gloomy prognosis in the New York Daily News:

“We must prevent a great cultural depression” by Adam Krauthamer

Published in the New York Daily News here on Oct 25, 2020

The pandemic has created new challenges in all of our lives, including the lives of performing artists. But unlike other workers — many of whom are slowly and methodically returning to their jobs — musicians and fellow arts workers in New York City are still locked out of the economy. These are the performers, artists and craftspeople who work on Broadway, at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theatre, Dizzy’s, Radio City and in your favorite clubs. They are being left behind in our national response to COVID, and we can’t afford to ignore them any longer. We must acknowledge an unspoken fact: Those who work in the performing arts are truly essential workers, and without them, we risk a great cultural depression….

According to the mayor’s office, New York is home to one of the world’s largest and most influential music ecosystems, supporting nearly 60,000 jobs, accounting for roughly $5 billion in wages, and generating a total economic output of $21 billion. On the larger scale, the arts contribute $763.6 billion to the U.S. economy, which is 4.2% of the gross domestic product — more than agriculture, transportation or warehousing. And the arts employ 4.9 million workers across the country. This is not some indulgent industry; it is part of the very foundation of our city and our country.

But everything has changed for the arts now. Seven months into the pandemic, artists and the city of New York are being throttled, almost without exception. From the house band at the Village Vanguard to the Queens Symphony to Broadway and Lincoln Center, the arts have been silenced. Virtually every person working in the arts and entertainment sector has lost their job.

Yet there is hardly any discussion of this in New York — and no plan in sight. …

In the present moment, look at countries like CanadaFranceBritainGermanyAustraliaSouth Africa and South Korea. Specifically, in the U.K., workers who cannot do their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have up to 80% of their wages covered by the government. On top of that, the U.K.’s public funding body for the arts announced a $190 million emergency relief package for artists and arts organizations affected by the ongoing public health situation, specifically earmarking $23 million in emergency relief to freelancers in creative industries who were not sufficiently covered by the government’s existing bailout package. The U.K. and other countries are making sure that their cultural institutions and artists will survive the pandemic. They know that culture is a cornerstone of their societies and well worth the investment.

But here in New York and across the United States, we still lack the leadership….

Society has a duty to prevent a great cultural depression, and we have the ability to do so. We must make the choice to fight for the arts and send direct aid to performing artists so that this crisis doesn’t force them to find another career, quit the local symphony, not return to their Broadway show or stop giving lessons to your kids. If artists can’t survive, then culture can’t survive.

We simply must recognize that culture is the heart of society — and the time to save it is now.

Adam Krauthammer (r.)






  • Ken says:

    Love this. OK, I have “like” literally no funds, am close to bankrupt/homeless. So, what can I do? Seriously, what can I do?

    • Sharon says:

      If this is a serious post I would suggest that you check out The Actors Fund which also helps musicians. You can google their website.

      • LaShondra says:

        And “MIA” AGMA..

        The guild has been as necessary and useful as Pelosi.

        Why the fuck are they just sitting around doing nothing after the annual dues and $1,000 fee they “needed”?

    • CA says:

      You can continue to advocate for the arts via social media! Share articles like this, make your voice heard if you wants the arts to stay!

    • WorldafterChFwasgone says:

      Destroying and silencing the live music, incapacitating arts and culture… now we all in Christopher Falzone’s shoes…

  • Firing Back says:

    There has to be a distinction:

    Saving and helping artists who are suffering because of the pandemic. This, surely, is absolutely necessary and should be the focus of any help/rescue measures.


    Further feeding (in the case of classical music) an ‘industry’ that has, for years, slowly precipitated its own demise – idly watching as executives with no vision or experience created an environment of corruption, nepotism, cronyism and overall toxicity.

    I don’t know the answer. The swamp certainly needs to be drained – and the pandemic will help do that.

    It’s individual artists – the overlooked (not the promoted ‘celebs’) – that need to be protected not only from COVID19, but also from an ‘industry’ that only cares about the few, definitely not the many.

    • Anon says:

      I fail to see this demise that you refer too. Every time I went to a concert, it was packed, over 2000 people in there easily.
      I go to lots of concerts that have no vision, of music that people are so sick of, of programming that is so uninteresting, and I love it. The rest of the sold out house loves it too.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      You are SO RIGHT, F.B.! Bravo

    • WorldafterChFwasgone says:

      Industry has been destroying and silencing the live in music rare talents, incapacitating individual artists and judging personal life choices in culture of nepotism – revenge and envie … now we all, except the BIG STARS as YW in Christopher Falzone’s shoes… (and he was the first one to promote her for Gilmore).

  • MusicalMan says:

    NB: I am a liberal and a former professional musician.

    Did we not all enter into the US music world knowing that there was no unemployment pay? Did we not all enter into the US music world knowing companies are funded entirely on the backs of donors?

    For years, the very famous saying of opera singers was: “if you can do anything else, do it”. It was always seen as a badge of honor that musicians got to suffer for little pay, little protections, but did so because they were doing what they were called to do.

    Everyone knew it was insecure. For some, that insecurity was, no doubt, a draw.

    And now? Now that the sky is falling – which no one expected – you want to act like that badge of honor is no longer a thing.

    But here’s the thing: you signed on to this. The writing was on the wall before you became a musician/stagehand/etc/etc/etc. And to make matters worse – choristers making 200k/year, orchestra members making 300k/year, stagehands making 500k/year put companies on the brink of financial ruin year after year. This set up an unsustainable system, especially as COVID hit.

    So here we are. What to do now? Gain a new skill. Go back to school. Because if you don’t, you’re playing into the mantra of “If you can do anything else, do it” by saying you can’t (because of personal preference) do anything else. And so you don’t get to take the other side of it by saying it’s not fair now.

    You’re not special because you work in music. And as that industry crumbles, put your hand down, go gain a new skill, and pull yourself up by your bootstraps. If music returns to the US (hopefully in a much more sustainable form) you can always go back. But until then, go be a productive member of society.

    • Defund the Arts!!!! says:

      This comment is precisely why it’s time to defund the arts and cut it out of the education curricula entirely!!

      There’s no reason to bother funding any of it anymore. It’s over.

      Glad people are seeing this too. Citing statistics above from the Met is good reason. There are too many other areas where money should be going like RENT and FOOD assistance right now. Time to cut off funding for all arts programs and redirect it to the needy. Selling Lincoln center and handing all of the proceeds over to the diverse members of society suffering under lockdown is the only decent thing to do.

      • Alma Regina says:

        What is wrong with you…?

        • Roland Oft says:

          Amen to defund! Nobody’s lifting a finger for the artists in this desperate hour. The audience for this genre left them to rot.

          Solicitation letters from the Met convinced my company to stop donating after they cut everybody off. I don’t want to hear anyone’s pat excuses either. I sought out individual singers to assist financially apart from “greedy Gelb”.

      • papageno says:

        How about Defund Public Education because it’s an abject failure? Your sarcasm isn’t very funny.

        • Hugh Goldberg says:

          That’s very inspiring papageno!!

          It’s certainly better than that defunding the police rubbish.

          I LOVE IT!!!!!

          Defund Public Education is sensible considering how poorly the students turn out decade over decade compared to the once great public school systems. Their budgets are incredibly bloated and ineffective. More children entering college need their grades “adjusted” in order to qualify and need “remedial assistance” once they get there which means they don’t belong.

          Of course the worst and most lecherous schools are in perpetually failing Democrat districts. They just squander both the tax and federal dollars anyway.

          Then there’s the failing US university system which now produces the snowflake generation of lazy, sarcastic debt-ridden snots. All that debt and no jobs to show for it.

          I’m loving your Defund Public Education idea! Fabulous!!

    • Maria says:

      Well said. The profession has been over subscribed for years in many countries, and work dwindling unless long before the virus came.

    • Opera singer says:

      You are the most cynical person I have ever come across. No wonder you are a former musician, because it’s obviously that you gave up on the dream, the fight and the love of the art within you. Very sad actually. On the contrary, musicians and artists are very special because they are the only foundation in society that actually gives back to the soul. Musicians are the bravest set of people too, because they go out there anyway, with courage and against all odds to heed their calling. They have supported society with everything they have, now it’s time that the government and public support us.

      • TJ says:

        Everything’s closed baby..

        How are you making money?

      • MusicalMan says:

        False. So off the point.

        Musicians get PAID for what they do. They don’t donate to society. Get over yourself. If you want to truly support society, stop accepting fees. Until then, that’s a BS argument. You think if you take away fees from the top singers out there they’ll keep performing? Laughable.

        There are plenty of musicians out there adapting to the new normal.

        Get it through your head, regardless of what everyone else has told you: YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL.

        Yikes to your whole comment.

    • WorldafterChFwasgone says:

      When you will bring your awardwinnig CV to someone
      needed a cleaning/sanitation of toilettes, you will be at least not a qualifie, but laughed and humiliated at.

      Go get an idea to Study something new…!! hm… after those years investments …!! To study something else, because you’re not “deservedly behave” in the industry to be a star? …
      Then, for example, should’ve Roberto Dias and Paul Bryane come together with board of directors and reimburse our comprehensive fee and more of others obliged payments for institutional study due to failure of our professional training (they nowadays called it instead of study, training! as in the sport or military).
      In the order to sponsor those new study for reason of institutional failures, destroying and silencing the lifes in music, incapacitating artists and culture…
      Now, somebody noticed, we all in Christopher Falzone’s shoes…Should or not alumni of such and such schools go hungrier them others alumni, who in the order of the industrial complex – no others reasons, became a directors or some kind of positioners in those institutions, advising theirs hangry and brilliant alumni-pianist and own peeps even to get the job in military complex? How about those investments in its study – talents, time-money? A specially, when there is no longer money can be found to serving a table meals)

      If you’re the are a winner of those things in life during CV-19 time, we hope you’re happy ! If you serve on SD as a new agent of technocrats… well, think about another exit, because even doctors would be replaced by those robots, – nobody is save on the earth anymore!
      But remember, it’s only a place for humans! Music is humanly serving the pain in humans and even animals, and even helping a plants to recover from toxic damages.
      Do we need our humanity and planet to be saved ? —- Then save your own mind, soul, spirit and keep your body tuned to your inspirational instrument !

  • Eric Rand says:

    watching my watch until the first “Orange Man Bad” comment.

  • Sharon says:

    It’s crazy to say that the insecurity is part of the draw or the thrill which draws people to music. Others may feel that great musicians need “to pay their dues” as people do in other professions but that means working long hours and staying very focused, not dealing with economic insecurity.

    Those who work with impoverished people or the homeless know how difficult it is for people who do not have a stable home or who are uncertain when they can eat their next full meal. They will tell you that poor people have to spend so much time and energy, and are so drained just trying to survive, they cannot focus on college or spend the necessary time on college or specialized job training; they simply do not have the time or the energy for anything else.

    One of the most energy draining things the poor have to do, at least in the United States,’ is negotiate the social services bureaucracy where requirements are becoming ever more stringent and and benefits are becoming increasingly stingier. Some Covid benefits have provided a brief respite but a lot of gig musicians fall through the cracks; because they are self employed contract workers they do not get the same types of benefits as laid off salaried workers and because they are working they are above the poverty line and thus are ineligible for welfare benefits.

    • William Safford says:

      The welfare/social assistance systems in much of the U.S. are designed on purpose to dissuade those who need the benefits from obtaining them.

      If all systems were as efficient, transparent, effective, and well administered as Social Security, things would be much better in the U.S.

    • WorldafterChFwasgone says:

      Thank you Sharon, you are saying the truth!

  • Sharon says:

    As far as what Krauthamer says I do fear for the arts in New York City. I personally was thrilled with the rise of indie and off-off Broadway theater due to the internet which publicized it by providing the opportunity for on line audience reviews and attending such theater had become an important part of my mental health.

    Many others feel the same about various types of music .

    As far as New York City arts are concerned who knows what the “new normal” will end up being but I seriously fear that New York City arts, and thus the New York City economy, may never really recover.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      It’s the horrendous opportunity cost of protecting the lives of the elderly. It seems some people are finally stopping to think about that cost, instead of devising ways of protecting the vulnerable and letting everybody else get back on with their lives.

      • Sharon says:

        As we know from this blog it is not only the elderly who are dying.

        • WorldafterChFwasgone says:

          We are all destine to death by the means of birth!
          Nobody is excluded.

          But the music, even silenced ones, becoming even louder, then Martha’s Scarlatti.

          Thank you, Martha for playing though! Be happier by musical rights own only by destined human beings! We’re loving you always and forever!

      • Aaron Downs says:

        In New York Cuomo packed them all in nursing homes to kill off the priciest patients then blamed healthcare workers.

        His own brother Chris of CNN was sick but he got over it and is as arrogant as ever. His case proves why we should open up the economy again while helping the most vulnerable.

        I respect the elderly, children and ill yet like everything else in life, one must move forward.

      • RM says:

        Couldn’t have been said better by a Libertarian, Ayn-Randian, Social Darwinist.
        A scourge of the earth.

        • citicrab says:

          Not so loud. All she said is “protecting the vulnerable and letting everybody else get back on with their lives.” What’s unreasonable here, even if libertarian? Yes life has a price, even if this jars your delicate sensibilities.

        • Julian Q. says:

          Your people on the left are going around beating and killing anyone who disagrees with your “Democrat Fragility” so you’ve no place castigating others!

  • Larry says:

    Not to quibble here but….of the financial figures he cites — ie., roughly $5 billion in wages, and generating a total economic output of $21 billion. On the larger scale, the arts contribute $763.6 billion to the U.S. economy, which is 4.2% of the gross domestic product — is this for non-profit arts ONLY or both nonprofit and for profit (like Broadway theatre, film, television, etc.?

  • Papageno says:

    This would not have happened if they have at least 18 months cushion money per financial advisors. In the end Covid will be gone and they’ll all get their jobs back.

    • Sharon says:

      The New York City Opera thought that it could take a year’s hiatus and then get back to normal but it found that it could never recover. I fear that this may happen to the entire performing arts scene.

    • Laughing at Liberals says:

      How cute. Especially with businesses closing for good and folks offing themselves as you laugh at them.

      Hope your analyst got you stocked up with extra Prozac when Trump wins a second term unless of course you plan to riot instead like the commoner you really are.

  • William Safford says:

    “But here in New York and across the United States, we still lack the leadership….”


    • Trump2020!!!!!!!! says:

      Many of us have been reading your comments..

      • William Safford says:

        So, you choose bad leadership, corruption, white supremacy, and the possible end of American democracy.

        Well, that is your right as a U.S. citizen, to vote for a Russian puppet.

        But from a civics POV, you exercised your right to vote.

  • Curvy Honk Glove says:

    “Learn to code”
    – Joe Biden

  • SMH says:

    Wow, what toxic dumpster fire of a comments section. Hard to believe that people who follow a classical music blog would have such a low opinion of the art form and it’s performers. Stay the fuck home after COVID is over and enjoy your LPs. I certainly don’t wanna see you at one of my shows

    • Mayflower says:

      I think what some people may be reacting to is classical musicians’ belief that they are somehow special. They are just a small slice of a much larger entertainment industry, all of whose members are in the same boat.

  • Jessica Pastrami says:

    How selfish are some of these musicians? We are in a devastating global pandemic… it’s time to sacrifice to stay safe. Wear. Your. Mask.

    • William Safford says:

      How does your sentiment have any relevance to the article in question? Musicians are sacrificing. How is requesting aid selfish?

      I agree with the imperative of wearing masks. Note, however, that nothing in the article contradicts this.

    • Ashu says:

      I can just imagine how much you must be sacrificing, and I doubt you’ll ever have to look a starving artist in the face in a soup line or tent city. Enjoy your assured income.