ASCAP Joins Music Groups Calling on Government to Include Royalties in Unemployment Benefits Calculations for Musicians

April 23, 2020


ASCAP and several other music industry organizations sent a joint letter to US Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, urging his department to provide states with guidance around the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which would make unemployment benefits more accessible to music creators and allow them to include royalties in the income base on which these benefits are calculated. The goal is for unemployment benefits to compensate for any decrease in royalties that music creators may experience as a result of the coronavirus crisis.


We are working hard to make sure music creators are able to access all the relief programs and benefits for which you are eligible.


Read the full letter below.




April 13, 2020


The Honorable Eugene Scalia

United States Department of Labor

200 Constitution Ave NW

Washington, DC 20210


Dear Secretary Scalia,


As leaders representing the full breadth of the music community, we are incredibly grateful that Congress and the President considered the needs of many individuals in our industry in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act. The CARES Act extends a critical lifeline to workers impacted by widespread business closures and “social distancing” guidelines. The explicit inclusion of independent contractors, sole-proprietors, and other self-employed individuals in the expansion of Unemployment Insurance is crucial for many members of the music industry who are depending on the intent of the CARES Act to become a reality.


From the restrictions on restaurants that regularly feature live music, to closures of venues of all sizes, live music has come to an abrupt halt. Further, as all Americans work to limit potential exposure by staying at home, the collaborative work of songwriters and of studio professionals has been tremendously impacted. It is evident that the music community has been hit hard by this pandemic.


States across the country are struggling to implement the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. The crush of new claimants has already overwhelmed state unemployment systems, but states are also entirely unequipped to serve self-employed individuals. As the Department of Labor continues to provide guidance to states to implement PUA, please prioritize the following key issues of unique importance to our community:


First, states should be directed to establish clear guidance quickly on how self-employed individuals should file for unemployment benefits. This information needs to be easily accessible and provided expeditiously, including the creation of an updated application form. Even simple, interim information disseminated now while internal processes are still being established will be reassuring to many self-employed individuals and alleviate unnecessary anxiety that these benefits will not be provided


Second, when calculating the weekly benefit amount for self-employed individuals, states should be instructed to allow for a full accounting of annual income, including income that is reported on a W-2 tax form, income reported on a 1099 tax form, and other forms of income, such as royalties, earned by independent contractors and self-employed individuals. Those who work in the music industry often earn income from multiple sources utilizing their different skills. This results in many individuals who hold multiple jobs as being classified as both employees and independent contractors. Without consideration of all types of income, individuals in the music community will not receive the maximum benefit amount to which they are entitled.


Third, states should be reminded that benefit payments under PUA are retroactive to January 27, 2020, continuing for up to 39 weeks through December 31, 2020. Music professionals are entitled to receive the full provision of benefits established by the CARES Act, but many individuals are being told that they will not receive retroactive payments.


Finally, individuals need clear guidance regarding which state they should file with for unemployment benefits. Whether they are touring, performing at a special event, meeting for a writing session, or recording at a studio, music professionals often perform work in multiple states during a typical year. State workforce agencies have been inconsistent in advising where individuals should file under such circumstances.


We understand that these unprecedented times create many different, unanticipated challenges, but the need is also unprecedented. We appreciate your prompt attention to these priorities. Americans rely on music to inspire and comfort them during times of trouble. Now, the music community is relying on you to provide the help that they desperately need.




American Federation of Musicians (AFM)

American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP)

Artist Rights Alliance


Future of Music Coalition

Global Music Rights

Music Artists Coalition (MAC)

National Music Publishers Association (NMPA)

National Songwriters Association International (NSAI)

Recording Academy

Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)

The Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) SESAC

Songwriters of North America (SONA)

Cc:      The Honorable Patrick Pizzella

            The Honorable John Pallasch

            The Honorable Chuck Grassley

            The Honorable Ron Wyden

            The Honorable Richard Neal

            The Honorable Kevin Brady