Thu | Jun 4, 2020

Musicians’ union appoints COVID-19 tsar - JFMAU set sights on stimulus package

Published:Wednesday | April 8, 2020 | 12:00 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer

As the name suggests, the post of coronavirus response chair is one which was recently conceptualised by the Jamaica Federation of Musicians and Affiliated Unions (JFMAU), in an effort to put in place a structured approach to handling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on its membership. The organisation has a goal to reach across the entire Jamaica with the timely message for musicians and creatives that there is a body which offers space for a collective voice, while showing the value of being a part of a professional network. The JFMAU, which is headed by singer Karen Smith, says the COVID-19 Response Team will work closely with stakeholders for the health, wellness, and financial well-being of their members.

Contemporary classical singer, Rory Frankson, is the person who JFMAU deems most suited for this role. Frankson told The Gleaner that in guiding the entity’s response to the current crisis, his responsibilities include ensuring that constant communication is maintained between the JFMAU and the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, and connecting with as many related circles as possible. “As a body, we have to strategise how the JFMAU can support our members through this period and establish partnerships with agencies to benefit members throughout the industry,” Frankson explained. He mentioned that communication with members is essential, especially during these difficult times, and pointed out that his portfolio includes the writing of press releases and implementing a media campaign.

LIFEBLOOD OF THE INDUSTRY

Also under Frankson’s purview is a singular focus on membership growth which will aid in strengthening their collective voice. In this era, when live shows, the lifeblood of the industry, have effectively been either cancelled or postponed until the third quarter of 2020 and beyond, and entertainment is described as being in a coma, Frankson robustly asserted that the JFMAU has practical solutions to offer to members. Significantly, many musicians and artistes have lost their livelihoods and are distressed.

“There are a number of things we are working on in anticipation that they will be helpful to the community as a whole. We are negotiating for a stimulus/relief cheque that will be receivable by our members. We believe that not only have we lost our income, but we’ve also lost the opportunity to earn, given the various restrictions,” he explained.

Cognisant of the fact that many musicians and creatives are adding to the world of content creation, the organisation believes that grant funding to support these efforts can be appropriated at this time. “It is an investment to ensure the continued creativity of our community,” the COVID-19 tsar affirmed.

He added: “We are providing resources and information to members, which include access to industry discussion forums, surveys, online courses and a host of other tools to be engaged during this time. We are intent on connecting personally with our members who are most affected to ensure they have access to care packages and other benefits the Government are putting in place to assist.”

The JFMAU is also looking beyond the current COVID-19 situation. “We are working to ensure that, upon the reopening of the various sectors, we can provide our members the opportunity to compete in a fair space. We continue to discuss various ways we can respond as the JFMAU. That response continues to develop as we go along; however, our primary focus is to mitigate the negative effects on the community by providing a voice at the national level,” Frankson said.

President Karen Smith, in a release stated that, “In collaboration with Jamaica Reggae Industry Association, Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates, and the Negril Entertainment Association, the JFMAU will be working closely to secure necessary benefits for their members, while supporting our crippled industry.”

The executive is calling on all its members, current and former, to contact the union to provide necessary information regarding their COVID-19 response. To assist during this time of crisis, the JFMAU will be offering a six-month moratorium on membership dues, requiring a deposit of $1,000 for enrolment. The freeze will be further reviewed after the period to determine any further actions. All musicians and creatives are being urged to join the union.

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com