TobyMac, Mandisa, and for KING & COUNTRY—along with many others in the entertainment industry—are struggling financially because of the coronavirus pandemic. So in early June, Christian radio station 99.1 Joy FM decided to ask listeners to donate to a virtual tip jar in order to mitigate the losses of Christian artists and their crews.
“I don’t think, prior to what’s going on now, that any of us ever thought…‘Well there’s just going to be a moment where it all comes to a screeching halt and you can’t do anything,’” Luke Smallbone of for KING & COUNTRY told Joy FM. “Like there’s no work at all.”
Smallbone told the station, which broadcasts to St. Louis, Missouri, and the surrounding area, that for KING & COUNTRY had just started a tour in Canada right as everything started to shut down. “When we tour, we have about 20 to 25 people that work for us,” he said, “which sounds just insane…it takes a lot of people.”
Usually if a tour gets cancelled, crew members simply switch to another tour, but when the pandemic hit, music “just literally went away.” This put everyone in a “trying situation” because it is difficult to suddenly pivot to a different career.
Smallbone said that despite the encouragement he has heard from many, Joy FM is the first organization to actually try to help his band in a practical way. “It’s one thing to say nice things,” he said. “It’s another thing to actually do something…You are the first people to actually do something.”
99.1 Joy FM Gets an Idea
A couple months ago, Sandi Brown, the General Manager of 99.1 Joy FM’s Morning Show, was talking to We Are Messengers frontman Darren Mulligan. Mulligan mentioned that he hoped the band could make it through the pandemic because of how badly the members were struggling financially. This struck Brown, and when she talked about the situation with her cohost, Nick Spiniolas, he said, “They encourage us all of the time with their songs. Is there something we can do to make sure that they are here on the other side of this storm and, beyond that, that they know how much we appreciate them?”
So Joy FM came up with Tip Jar Concert Day, which took place on June 4, 2020. For 15 minutes at the top of every hour throughout the day, DJs spoke to eight Christian artists about what their bands were facing financially, as well as about their new music. Listeners could donate to the virtual tip jar throughout the rest of that week, and when the fundraiser was over, the money was split among the artists the station had selected.
“Who knows what’ll happen,” said Brown, “but if some of these bands can make it, if their crew members and their bus drivers and their support team can make it because of our generosity, that’s pretty exciting.” As of June 9, the station had raised over $140,000.
Speaking to 99.1 Joy FM on June 4, TobyMac said, “I’ve never experienced anything like this in all my years of touring.” He was 26 shows into a 36-city tour and was about to perform in Little Rock, Arkansas, when he was told the performance that night was canceled.
Said the artist, “We called everybody into the area and we said, ‘We all have to go home now’…Our hearts just sank.” While TobyMac is grateful that pausing his tour has given him an extended period of time at home with his family, he is concerned about paying his staff. The band members, bus drivers, and the rest of his crew are all impacted by the fact that he is no longer touring.