Cited as “an exceptional song interpreter with a grand voice” by the Berliner Morgenpost, Adrienne Haan specializes in the music of the 1920s and 30s. She is an internationally acclaimed artist who performs all around the globe. She resides in New York and Germany.
How do you experience the current crisis as an artist?
The crisis is a huge burden for all freelance artists. Despite the cancellation of performances, I continue to work on a lot of projects although none of them are paid for, but somehow you have to stay busy. I am currently recording my new CD TEHORAH. Due to the uncertain situation, I am afraid what the future may bring financially. I am also asking myself whether this is the end of my career. All of my concerts have been canceled or rescheduled. These include performances worldwide: USA, Canada, Europe, China, South America. It has always been my dream to perform world-wide. I have been working on all continents for several years which has taken me 13 years of non-stop work to accomplish. Nobody knows when and if the work will continue or how long this shutdown will last.
You told a German newspaper in an interview that many artists fall through a safety net. Why is that so?
The precarious situation for the artists in Germany is as follows: 49% of all freelance artists, that is almost half of all registered artists in Germany, are not members of the German “artists’ social security fund”. It is completely unclear why financial aid given by the state of North Rhine Westphalia was only executed to those artists who are members of the social security fund. 2500 artists received 2000 EUR emergency aid. Another 17,000 applications received by early April could not be processed because the available aid was gone. The fact is that the majority of artists didn’t get a cent. In other federal states, there was no emergency aid at all.
You coined the term “artist middle class” (“Künstlermittelstand”). What do you mean by that?
Not all artists are „poor and starving“ although the press likes to paint that picture of artists in general. There are artists who are neither rich nor famous but who make a living being artists. This means that they are getting by. This is called the „artist middle class“. You live of live concerts, CD sales, lessons, workshops etc. None of this is happening at the moment and we are not making any money. It is essential to find a solution to help artists as much as the other freelancers. So far artists are forced to claim welfare whereas other freelancers receive financial aid from the German government to keep their businesses running.
Your second home are the USA. How is the situation there?
Very bad. Most NY artists live from one paycheck to another, from one cash gig to another. Life is too expensive to be able to build up reserves. In addition, artists literally live in narrow apartments, sometimes with many other people. That in itself is very depressing. There is very little social security and most artists don’t even have health insurance. I know musicians who can no longer afford to eat. Going to the doctor is completely impossible for them. That’s why many are very afraid. In the event of a possible Covid 19 infection, many do not dare to go to the hospital because of the costs. In the United States, many face a psychological collapse. I know a lot of them personally and we are in regular contact. The helplessness here is pretty devastating for me.
On a positive note: A few weeks ago, New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo implemented a law amendment by express procedure in which nobody in NY can be thrown out of their apartment until the end of June for now. This is very good for the tens of thousands of New York residents who are currently unable to pay the horrendously expensive rents due to unemployment. Two of my musicians are currently unable to pay rent, but luckily their landlords cannot throw them out. At least that’s something. You can’t imagine this kind of situation in Germany or Luxembourg (I’m a citizen of both countries)!
What is your personal message to the German Minister of Culture Monika Grütters?
We immediately need a minimum basic income per month (retrospectively!) for ALL artists, not just for a selected area. The freelance theaters must receive financial help NOW, they can’t survive on their own. And we have to have perspectives to reopen the theaters in a way that makes sense economically. The measures taken by the health authorities are a farce and – due to a lack of income – hardly economical for most theaters. During the whole Corona period culture and art have been neglected in public opinion and in political discourse. We all need help NOW!
You have created an artist portal on Facebook. What is it all about?
I have created a new artist portal on facebook, where artists can post freely. It is called: “One world! Music for comfort during the time of Covid 19 ”. If you like, visit the site, share it and “like” it. The artists will surely be happy. However, neither of us is earning any money with this either: https://www.facebook.com/musicforcomfort/?modal=admin_todo_tour
Where can you experience Adrienne Haan soon – live or digital?
LIVE performances are unthinkable for now and surely for a very long time. There may be concerts in Germany, Luxembourg and New York in the second half of the year, but none of this is foreseeable at the moment. Until then I have to spend my money wisely because no money is coming in! The frustration here is that you have fought to book these concerts for years. Like 98% of all artists, I do not have an agent or concert agency to book my tours for me. I do everything on my own. I am busy with acquisition and office work all day long. It’s a tough job and you need a lot of self-discipline and perseverance. Of course, many who do not work in the field do not see what it takes to be an artist.
I wrote two new shows this year. It takes months to do so. This is time you put into your career without earning anything. It’s devastating to see your work going down the drain by cancellations world-wide.
I have created a lot of new clips for the “Music for Comfort Series” over the past few weeks in collaboration with my friend and colleague Heinz Walter Florin that can be found on youtube. I also wrote a song called “Contemplation” that is truly about humanity. It is also about asking yourself questions: to what extent we have lived our lives in the past, to what extent we have destroyed the world and what are the effects now. As always, my lyrics are a bit philosophical, even though it’s a pop song. The song can be found here:
I am currently writing many songs in collaboration with my partner Darren Williams from Sydney. So far we have a whole series of finished songs that are just waiting to be produced. If you have to produce everything on your own, it costs a fortune.
I would love to find a producer to produce our songs! 😉 That would be a dream come true and it would be nice to make some money, especially in times like these.
The interview was conducted by Jochen Zenthöfer on 11 May 2020 for the initiative “SOS – Save Our Spectrum”.
Website from Adrienne Haan: http://adriennehaan.de/
Artist portal on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/musicforcomfort