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In These Times - December 7, 2020

LOS ANGE­LES —Musi­cian Josephine Shet­ty, aka Kohi­noor­gasm, was prepar­ing for her West Coast spring tour in March when the pan­dem­ic-relat­ed can­cel­la­tions start­ed rolling in.

Like many musi­cians, Shetty’s liveli­hood is pieced togeth­er from part-time work. She per­forms at under­ground spaces and small clubs, releas­es her own music and teach­es mid­dle school music class­es. ​“When you’re a per­son who works so many jobs, that’s already a very unsta­ble sit­u­a­tion,” Shet­ty says. With live shows being can­celled, it became clear how dif­fi­cult the road ahead would be. The inde­pen­dent venues that most work­ing musi­cians rely on were some of the first to close (and will sure­ly be some of the last to reopen). 

When fel­low musi­cian and orga­niz­er Joey La Neve DeFrancesco reached out to Shet­ty, just a few weeks into the pan­dem­ic, about union­iz­ing musi­cians and relat­ed music work­ers, Shet­ty signed up. On April 22, a group of about 20 musi­cians met vir­tu­al­ly to dis­cuss sol­i­dar­i­ty and how to build a more just indus­try, inau­gu­rat­ing the Union of Musi­cians and Allied Work­ers (UMAW).

“Very quick­ly, every­one had all of these dif­fer­ent visions of what a dif­fer­ent music indus­try could look like when it was being built col­lec­tive­ly by the work­ers involved,” says DeFrancesco, who is based in Prov­i­dence, R.I. UMAW already boasts about 25 steer­ing com­mit­tee mem­bers and 80 sub­com­mit­tee mem­bers, with top­ics rang­ing from stream­ing and venue rela­tions to police abo­li­tion. More than 1,000 musi­cians have expressed inter­est through the group’s web­site and peti­tions. Mem­bers are locat­ed in Los Ange­les, Chica­go, New York, Port­land, Ore., Boston and beyond. So far, the orga­niz­ing has hap­pened entire­ly online. ...
Read full report at In These Times