It’s an unprecedented time in the music industry. Concert venues across the country have shut down indefinitely due to COVID-19, leaving thousands of artists without work and millions of fans with no access to live music. While this is devastating to the music industry, artists and fans alike can agree that it is absolutely necessary to keep our community safe.
Social distancing regulations put in place in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in cancelled tours, delayed albums, and the closure of record stores deemed “nonessential.”
This has drastically limited the source of revenue for musicians, especially smaller independent artists. They are now heavily relying on streaming royalties to stay afloat, which pay only a fraction of a cent per play.
This threatens the future of small independent bands that receive the majority of their income from touring. It is important to support local musicians in any way possible by streaming their music, buying their merchandise, and sharing their music with your friends and family. Spotify is also implementing a new tip jar feature that, if activated by the artist, allows fans to send money to bands and artists directly through the app.
While bands are definitely suffering financially right now, they are also facing a lot of mental struggles deriving from the creative restriction brought on by social distancing. Connecticut-based band Mandala wrote in an Instagram caption, “We’re all having a hard time being stuck right now, it’s such a weird feeling not being able to tour, and do this thing we love.” It is a feeling that can be shared by both artists and fans.
As an avid concert goer myself, I am definitely missing live music; however, I needed the break. I was averaging two or three concerts a month and my body and wallet were starting to suffer. While I miss making new friends with other fans, dancing in the pit, and being only a few feet away from my favorite bands, I am not entirely missing out on the live music experience. Several bands have been performing acoustic sets across different social media platforms.
These bands and solo artists are performing these short sets over Instagram Live, YouTube, and Facebook Live just because they miss performing. The majority of artists receive no monetary compensation for these virtual concerts, but they do them for the love of the music and their fans.
These virtual performances definitely don’t have the same effect as a live concert, but they are providing fans with content they never would have received otherwise. They also allow fans to directly communicate with the artist through commenting, giving a different feeling of intimacy that can’t be achieved in person.
Bands have been putting new twists on old songs, playing deep cuts, and covers that would never be played live. For example, the punk rock band, The Frights, played acoustic renditions of all four of their albums, in their entirety, on Instagram live. Rob Grote from The Districts also came on Instagram Live to play an acoustic rendition of the band’s latest album, the aptly titled You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere. Another quarantine specialty was a short IGTV collaboration from Lydia Night from The Regrettes and Dylan Minnette from Wallows. The couple played covers of songs by The Moldy Peaches and Charli XCX.
However, the best live session that I’ve seen barely included any music. Matt Schultz from popular rock band Cage the Elephant played the song “Love’s the Only Way,” from the band’s 2019 album, Social Cues, and then spent about an hour talking with the artist who designed all of the masks and costumes he wore while performing in the band’s latest tour. In this session they talked about the meanings and symbolism behind the costumes, how they were made, and what inspired them to create a performance surrounding these masks and costumes.
This time is hard for everyone, but it is incredible to see the new creative ways that artists are interacting with their fans. I can definitely see some of the things that artists are doing during quarantine, like live streams, being continued after social distancing restrictions are lifted. I am happy to see that people are not letting their art die and I am excited to hear the albums and songs that were born from coronavirus.
Please continue to follow CDC recommendations until it is safe to return to normal operations to ensure the safety of yourself and the people in your community. WHUS wishes you the best.