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