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How to Support Artists, Performers, and Service Industry Folks During Coronavirus

Updated: May 26, 2020 10:40
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You need to support the people who make you feel this good! Photo of this epic party at the DNA Lounge by Shutter Slut.

Let’s get real: the American system of “Fuck you, I got mine!” has been proven to be woefully unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic. What a surprise! This plague is laying bare the fact that not having Universal Healthcare or other social safety nets is terrible for society. If we had Universal Basic Income, there wouldn’t be millions of artists, performers, and service industry folks terrified that they won’t be able to pay their rent and bills right now.

But that’s not the world we live in unfortunately. We don’t even have paid sick leave for all Americans. We can get a lot closer to it by electing Bernie Sanders as president, but that’s a different conversation. What it comes down to is this:


There are some services out there to help alleviate things, including some emergency funding. You can find many of those resources right here. Also some local governments are stepping up to put a moratorium on evictions during the crisis. But still that’s not enough.

People are seeing their entire income disappear, and since the government isn’t gonna pay those people, it’s up to those who have means to help out those who don’t. This is what the true meaning of community is. So let me say this loudly and emphatically:


Also, if you’re a business owner please consider paying your employees even if you’re closed down. Zazie in Cole Valley is giving their employees unlimited paid sick leave during the crisis and the DNA Lounge is paying their people for at least three weeks.

Here is a list of ideas on how to do that:

Join Their Patreon: If you have means, you should be doing this anyways, since it’s a vital way to keep creative people creating. But right now they need your support more than ever. Patreon allows you to give a monthly amount to keep creatives afloat.

While you’re doing this, please join the Broke-Ass Stuart Patreon as well. Nearly our entire income is derived from getting people out to eat, drink, and do things, so our advertisers are dropping out. Please join our Patreon right here. We need you.

Venmo Them: If your friend is a performer or provides a service like massage or dog walking you can Venmo them to help them out. Figure out what a pair of tickets to one of their shows would be and send them that much money. Or find out much their services are and send them the equivalent of a session or two. If you’re friend works in a restaurant or a bar, send them the equivalent of a really fat tip.

When You Go Out Tip BIG: Similarly, when you do go out tip extravagantly. I wrote about this in my SF Examiner column right here.

Buy Their Merch or Their Art: Many performers have merchandise like shirts, posters, hoodies, pins etc. You can support them by buying their merch.

Also, many artists make their money by taking part in festivals and craft fairs. My buddy Lil Tuffy who creates rad posters and shirts makes most of his income at festivals like SXSW. Literally all of his gigs have shut down and  he doesn’t know how he’ll make income. You can support him and others like him by buying stuff.

One of Lil Tuffy’s dope posters for The Fillmore.

Buy Gift Cards For Places: If you love a restaurant or a store and don’t want to see it disappear, but a gift card to it. That way they can get the money now and you can redeem it when things mellow out.

Buy Gift Cards for Friends: You can also send your friends prepaid gift cards to help with their groceries and other supplies. If the gift card is to a local business, it’s a double mitzvah! Also, you can order meals and send them directly to their homes.

Book Them for Future Events and Give Them a 50% Deposit: There are all kinds of performers and service providers who are out of work right now but need to pay their bills. You can book them to perform at a future event or at a happy hour in your office or a massage party or whatever now, and give them a 50% deposit. That way they can pay their bills.

Don’t Ask for a Refund, Ask for a Rain Check: If you’ve got tickets to something, or you have a service provider like a dog walker or house cleaner, don’t ask for a refund, ask for a raincheck. That way they can keep the money now, and you can attend the performance or get the service when things die down.

Don’t Ask for a Refund OR a Rain Check: You can be extra dope by letting them keep the money and still paying full price in the future.

Hubba Hubba Revue is one of the MANY weekly shows that is shut down and there performers are hurting from it.

Pay For a 1 on 1 Virtual Session: From giving lessons to coaching to consulting to private concerts, there’s a ton of things you can pay these very talented people to do in 1 on 1 virtual sessions.

Extend Deadlines or Debts: As my friend Molly Freedenberg says –  “If you’re in a position to forgive or extend a deadline on an artist’s rent or debt, do it. If an artist regularly gets something from you (supplies or a service), consider giving it for free or on no-interest credit.”

See if a Show’s Website Has a Donations Page: Some shows will let you donate online to offset this fuckery. Kat Robichaud’s Misfit Cabaret does.

Support Indie Bookstores and Local Businesses by Buying Online: If you don’t want to leave the house but want to support local businesses, buy from them online or over the phone. They need your support

Amplify Social Media Posts, Write Reviews, and Recommend People: If money is really tight and you can’t do any of the things described above, you can still help. Share people’s social media posts. Write glowing reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc. And use word of mouth to get the word out. If you know someone who has a skill and needs work, tell your friends.

Thanks to everyone on Facebook who gave me your suggestions. Together we can all make it through this.

If there’s anything we missed, please leave it in the comments.

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.