A lot has happened this week.
No need to elaborate, because this is a story about something good going on in the world. Yes, even at a time like this. Starting Saturday afternoon, a group of Philly DJs are joining forces to throw an all-day music fest and raise money for other local artists.
All the while, virtual partiers will be strongly encouraged to donate money toward $100 visa gift cards for struggling artists. The money’s intended for small bills and groceries.
A-List, aka Ashley Johnson, said she’ll be bringing the “feel good Saturday vibes,” adding that a lot of her followers want to hear house music and Afrobeat.
DJ Ricochet and his team came up with the idea for the fundraiser.
“While we’re all in the house, it’s a great opportunity for people to enjoy some good music and raise money for a great cause,” Ricochet, real name Earl McClary, told Billy Penn.
Ricochet has been a full-time DJ for nearly a decade. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the 35-year-old quickly saw his gigs — and income — dry up.
The first sign was his Over Easy Brunch, planned for Sunday, March 15, at the Common in University City. Ricochet noticed coronavirus murmurs beginning to spread and called the venue Friday morning to confirm. By 4 p.m., the event was canceled, despite having already sold 200 tickets at $20 each.
All eight of Ricochet’s wedding gigs were postponed until 2021, party venues are closed, and Ricochet’s residency at his old elementary school is on pause.
“I’ve been out of work for 80 days,” Ricochet said.
Artists of all kinds have been struggling — and they aren’t sure where to look for help. One former source of funding appears to have died an ignominious death: the city’s arts and culture office might no longer exist.
To help fill a giant pandemic-caused hole in the city’s budget, Mayor Jim Kenney’s revised 2021 budget slashes the office, which has given out about $4 million in grants to artists and organizations each year. In addition to the financial blow, it’s a blow to artists’ sense of worth.
“I can live off of my current salary,” said A-List, who has a day job as a financial controller, “but DJing was an outlet for me, and connecting with people is something that I definitely miss.”
Both she and Ricochet have turned to Zoom and Instagram Live to keep things going, like so many of us around the world. It’s far less lucrative than a traditional gig, and A-List said she usually just pops her Cash App in the comments for no-pressure donations.
During the DJ-a-thon, organizers hope those donations will come pouring in. Folks can send money via Ricochet’s Cash App at $DJRicochet03. If you don’t use Cash App and still want to contribute, direct message Chess Not Checkers, Ricochet’s entertainment business, on Instagram.
Ricochet has gigged Zoom birthday parties, and is closely following metrics for his IG Live sessions.
Within 22 days, he said he’s done 25 IG Lives, gained more than 1k followers and made about $1k. He also established a landscaping business to help supplement lost income.
It’s the many videographers, photographers, graphic designers, spoken word poets and other artists Ricochet knows, who are struggling just to put food on the table.
“Some people are stuck and they have kids,” he said. “Their expenses are a lot higher, so we just decided to create this initiative. It’s something small but it lightens the blow.”
“I think that for me [the DJ-A-thon is] important on a lot of different levels,” A-List said. “One of the things I love about Philadelphia is that it is a very creative, artistic city. In a city like Philadelphia that thrives off of art, it’s important to let the artists know that they matter.”
To tune in, head to each DJ’s IG Live at their allotted time. The lineup listed on Insta is: