Who's There for Musicians When Times Get Tough?

A little over two years ago, Levon Helm, the drummer and vocalist for The Band, passed away at 71 from throat cancer. That was sad enough. Further compounding this tragedy was the fact that Helm's illness didn't end his ongoing, multi-decade feud with Band songwriter Robbie Robertson. It's a classic story: Helm felt like he was denied lucrative songwriting royalties and he took this frustration to the grave.

Fortunately, Helm had some kind of support structure in the final months of his life. Other musicians aren't so lucky. Many musicians live paycheck to paycheck, without health insurance, savings, or rainy day funds. As a result, history is littered with countless examples of accomplished musicians living, quite literally, on the street.

So to repeat the subject of this post: Who's there for musicians when times get tough?

The answer is the MusiCares Foundation. Established in 1989 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, its primary purpose is to focus the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues which directly impact the health and welfare of the music community.

Visit MusiCares' website and you'll find a litany of information to help struggling musicians, ranging from Affordable Care Act information to participating medical providers who offer care to musicians who lack health insurance.

So who actually funds MusiCares?

According to its most recent fundraising report, which lists the 15 donors who gave $50,000 or more, it's a mix of music industry titans (Gibson Foundation, Sony, Warner Music Group Services, Westwood One), corporations (AEG Global Partnerships), and foundations (Moss Foundation, Starkey Hearing Foundation).

As previously noted, MusiCares was established by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the entity responsible for the Grammys. We were hard on the Grammys recently, but it was all in good fun. It's show business, after all.

But show business is also serious stuff. For every "winner" who wisely saves money, creates a nest egg, and buys quality health insurance, there are dozens who are far less fortunate. The academy and MusicCares represent a vital, and in some cases, the only lifeline for musicians facing difficult circumstances.

Sure, we could quibble with certain aspects of this picture: Like how industry giants may contribute to MusiCares out of guilt for nickel and diming musicians. But, hey, it's the holiday season, so right now we'd just like to stay positive and point out that it's a good thing that this foundation is doing, and commend the funders behind it.