Whoever you are, wherever you come from, and whatever you do, it is safe to assume that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it. The world is a different place now, with border closures, lockdowns, and social distancing all becoming the norm for people across the world. Unsurprisingly, the restrictions that we’ve all had to face have had an overwhelming impact on the livelihood and prosperity of many different industries, however, one of the most affected is the music industry.
Sadly, this year has seen devastation for live music events throughout the world with many major festivals, including Glastonbury, Coachella, and Download all being canceled due to the risk of transmission of the virus. Whilst this was clearly the only safe option the organizers were left with, this, unfortunately, has a huge knock-on effect for artists both big and small.
A major source of income for many performers comes from gigging in bars, clubs, and festivals, due to the rise in digital downloads and streams, which pay artists very little per hit rendering physical sales obsolete. Without these events, artists have had to think on their toes to find new, innovative ways to profit from their talents, without the ability to perform to a live audience in person.
The Front Room is the New Stage?
One of the most popular methods that people have been using to make money is by live streaming “virtual gigs” via platforms such as Twitch, Facebook, and Youtube, and asking for tips to play requests, or to record shoutouts for people. One popular band utilizing this is the British band “Coco and the Butterfields”, who live stream for an hour and a half every Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday from their studio in Canterbury, Kent.
What’s great about this method is that it’s accessible to a global audience, meaning the reach could easily go above and beyond the audience, the performer would usually have, with many people who are working from home looking for entertainment. What’s more, anyone who has a smartphone or computer (which is most of the population!) can begin live streaming, and potentially begin to make some money without the struggle of booking gigs for peanuts in small, quiet venues.
Even big stars have been getting involved with initiatives like “One World: Together At Home”, which was an event organized to raise funds for the World Health Organisation. The first portion was streamed online through Youtube and featured artists from across the globe, such as Niall Horan, The Killers, Eason Chan, and Jessie J.
Um, You’re On Mute!
Other ways artists have been generating income is through selling merchandise such as physical albums, T-Shirts or Jumpers through an online shop, or releasing their music via Bandcamp, which gives a much higher percentage of profit to the artist then streaming services like Spotify, YouTube Music or Apple Music.
Those who are particularly masterful at their craft have also begun teaching online music lessons, either through a pre-recorded course available for a one-time fee or via one-to-one zoom call lessons, which allows the student to have a more constructive experience tailored to their needs and skills, much like an in-person lesson.
Don’t Mind Me, Just Sliding Into the Charts
As for the big-name artists, some have been using the lockdown period as a chance to relax and unwind from a turbulent life of the record, release, promote, and repeat. Others have pounced on the opportunity to focus on writing and releasing new material, in order to capitalize on a reduced market.
Recorded 100% remotely, “Folklore” by Taylor Swift was released on July 24th, 2020 as a surprise to both her fans and her record label, who only knew about the album a few days prior. Regardless, at the time of writing the album remains number 1 on the Billboard top albums chart, however, it will go down in history as just one of the amazing creations produced under lockdown.
What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger
Whilst the future of the music scene may seem a bit ambiguous at the moment, we may be able to enjoy a partial return to in-person performances, as successful trials of socially distanced gigs have taken place in the UK. Penned as “The World’s First Socially Distanced Gig”, singer Sam Fender performed to a crowd of 2,500 in Newcastle. Each “bubble” was separated from other groups in a metal pen, and wore masks when leaving their pen to buy food and drink or move around. Although we won’t be able to mosh anytime soon, if these procedures are introduced across the world, we may be able to support artists once again in an open and safe environment.
All in all, whilst the Global crisis has really put a strain on the music industry as a whole, it’s going to take a bit more to stop us from doing what we love. Whether it be writing songs, performing live, or recording music, technology today has allowed us to continue to fuel our creativity, and unite as one in order to defeat such a deadly enemy.