Musical Artists Call for Economic Justice in the Digital Domain

At market closing on April 10, 2020, while tens of thousands of musicians and DJs across the country tried to access unemployment benefits, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Google/Youtube had earned $6.2 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively, for the week, according to Forbes. On that same day, the Music Workers Alliance launched an emergency petition directed to Facebook, Google and YouTube asking for relief and justice. 

The petition has already gathered over 3,000 signatures — among them some of the most accomplished musicians and DJs from all genres. We call on these corporations to pay 1% of their ad revenue to a relief fund for the “content creators” whose unpaid labor generates much of their wealth. Live music work is shut down and will likely remain so for more than a year. This relief fund must be made available to music workers for the whole duration of the shutdown. Furthermore, recorded work is not a viable income alternative due to the mass copyright infringement enabled by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act section 512. The MWA petition calls for these corporations to put an end to infringement by adopting “Standard Technical Measures” (STMs).

Restoration of a fair digital market is impossible while YouTube — responsible for nearly half of all online music consumption — continues to profit while enabling mass infringement. 

The Covid-19 pandemic exposed many weaknesses in our social safety net and labor laws. The predicament of musical artists — the original gig workers — is particularly poignant. With live performance shut down, music workers’ ongoing calls to address online infringement by adopting STM’s carries new urgency. 

MWA’s petition represents the largest ever unified expression of working musical artists across genres demanding economic justice in the digital domain. 

Short list of prominent signatories and quotes below:

  • Andy Stack (Wye Oak)
  • Ariana Paoletti (Volvox)
  • Austin Wulliman (JACK Quartet)
  • Bela Fleck
  • Beth Orton
  • Bill Frisell
  • Boots Riley (The Coup)
  • Catherine Irwin (Freakwater)
  • Charles Lloyd
  • Claire Chase (International Contemporary Ensemble)
  • Crystal Waters
  • Danilo Perez
  • Danny Krivit
  • Deena Abdelwahed
  • Delia Beatriz (Debit)
  • Emma Burgess-Olson (UMFANG)
  • Esperanza Spalding
  • Fred Wesley
  • Four Lost Souls (Bethany Thomas, John Szymanski, Jon Langford, Tawny Newsome)
  • Franz Nicolay (The Hold Steady)
  • Harry Gregson-Williams
  • Henry Threadgill
  • Jack DeJohnette
  • James Newton Howard
  • Jason Moran
  • Joey La Neve DeFrancesco (Downtown Boys)
  • John Medeski (Medeski Martin & Wood)
  • John Patitucci
  • John Zorn
  • Johnny Gandelsman (Silk Road Ensemble, Brooklyn Rider)
  • Julie Covello (Dj Shakey)
  • Karriem Riggins
  • Keith Levenson
  • Kronos Quartet (Hank Dutt, David Harrington, Sunny Yang, John Sherba)
  • Laurie Anderson
  • Luciana Souza
  • Marc Ribot
  • Marea Stamper (Black Madonna)
  • Matana Roberts
  • Mekons (Jon Langford, Sally Timms)
  • Merrill Garbus (Tune-Yards)
  • Mike Servito
  • Nels Cline (Wilco)
  • Nick DeSimone (Nickodemus)
  • Nicky Mao (Hiro Kone)
  • Noah Lennox (Animal Collective, Panda Bear)
  • Norah Jones
  • Osvaldo Golijov
  • Peggy Abrams, on behalf of Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians
  • Peter Zummo
  • Rex King
  • Rhiannon Giddens
  • Roberto Carlos Lange (Helado Negro)
  • Rosanne Cash
  • Roy Lamb
  • Sam Amidon
  • Terri Lyne Carrington
  • Thao Nguyen (Thao & the Get Down Stay Down)
  • Vijay Iyer
  • Wayne Shorter
  • [and many others]

Beth Orton: “With so much financial destabilisation for musicians it is more important than ever for digital profit sharing to be equitable and fair.”

Charles Lloyd: “Online streaming and illegal uploading of recordings has decimated our professional income. This needs to change.”

Sally Timms (Mekons): “…Who would even look at digital platforms without our content which at this point is essentially stolen by multi-billion dollar tech companies? Pay people! Pay the musicians, the artists, the writers. Also pay the delivery guys, the rideshare drivers and everyone else who gets screwed in the digital economy and pay them right!”

Austin Wulliman (JACK Quartet): “This crisis continues to underscore the immense creativity of today’s musicians, which is simply appropriated by tech platforms for their own profit. While musicians continue to imagine a cultural response to our current climate their work is taken without payment. We need a new model of artist pay that matches the realities of the way artists create today. If tech companies want the content that drives mass viewership to their platforms they need to pay for it.”

Marc Ribot: “All my work is shut down through June, with more cancellations expected. If we don’t deal—NOW—with the mass online infringement that has destroyed our ability to make money from recording, then soon WE’RE going to be shut down.”


Music Workers Alliance is an organization of, by, and for independent musicians and DJs. Our mission is to further Musician/DJ empowerment through collective economic and political action. MWA members are affiliated with Arts for Art, Building Beats, Indie Musicians Caucus and the Jazz Advisory Committee of Local 802 AFM, MOMENT NYC, Musicians for Musicians, NYC Artist Coalition, Sound Mind Collective, Underground Producers Alliance and many other organizations.