On Coronavirus' Effect In The Music Industry, Concert Daydreaming, and James Blake
Updated: May 10, 2020
It feels like it was only a few weeks ago that we were all making plans for the newly-coming spring. Where to day drink? Where to meet up? Where to go? Which concerts to go to, more specifically. I had been living in Lille for a year now so, Brussels? Paris? Antwerp? Dunkirk? You name it and I could be there in less than a three-hour-long bus ride. I had a variety of options in terms of cities to pick from for a concert destination. That's what I thought in the beginning anyway.
I went with Brussels, the 25th of April, James Blake, a birthday gift to self.
Around the times I was planning my concert, the coronavirus talk has been spreading around, causing fear and panic to some. "I'll still go." I said. "It's just the flu."
Things didn't go as planned when things took a major turn in France, resulting in the temporary shut-down of schools. In a very short period of time everything changed, we were confined and before I knew it, the same pattern was followed by almost every country in the world. "Well I didn't see that coming" would be an understatement of my shock. No rolling in the grass drinking cheap wine? No flirty dates and picnics? No James Blake concert? No festivals during the summer? That's not what I included in my daydreams for the upcoming warm weather for sure.
The first days of the confinement, I was falling down the dark rabbit hole of anxiety and fear concerning the situation that we were in, constantly asking myself how the world would look like when this pandemic goes away. The feeling of guilt was always present, guilt of underestimating this virus, guilt of anything really. Few minutes in my very sad thoughts, I had a notification on my phone and saw that James Blake was doing an Instagram Live. As soon as I saw that notification and heard him sing, it felt like the biggest virtual hug which I really needed, even if virtual. He also offered and said: “Requests? I will, of course, be opening with ‘Imagine’.” in a joking way to reference the new tongue-in-cheek unity anthem. Cute.
James Blake wasn't the only one who went live. Chris Martin did the same a few days earlier than Blake, took recommendations and sang the songs that people wanted and Dua Lipa performed her new single "Break My Heart" at home for Jimmy Fallon. Around these times Patti Smith was also offering a live poems-and-music session with her daughter which was quite delightful to say the least. Later on, I saw that having this flux of Instagram-live concerts of musicians offering semi-concerts was really helpful to most as it was to me. It helped to fortify the sense of community and unity which we all needed in these crazy times.
How Does This Virus Affect The Music Industry?
It may look like it's rainbows and butterflies with the cute at-home live concerts but the problem that COVID-19 caused in the music industry is very concerning and deep-rooted for most. When I was watching Vinyl, the TV series created by Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese, I thought that the worst music-industry related problem in the world could be a label that wasn't making money with a murder storyline in the background to go with it. I was wrong. The music industry is intrinsically associated with the need of a large audience whether it's a concrete presence in shows or virtual presence in streaming platforms. Considering that this business' core target is the crowds, the coronavirus resulted in a financial outbreak for the industry since events, streaming parties and concerts could no longer be a revenue-source. Spotify has encountered a serious dip in the streaming numbers since everybody is turning towards radios to be entertained and informed at the same time. A whole year of concerts has been left aside as the world's future lies uncertain in terms of the longevity of this pandemic. North America’s largest concert promoters such as AEG and Live Nation canceled all their shows. Touring, performing or holding events are the main source of income for musicians and not being able to proceed with any of these actions is quite worrying. Some artists might be able to survive the self-isolation and not be bothered by their concerts being canceled but most of the musicians are at great risk in terms of their finances. Major festivals like Coachella and Glastonbury are also suspended but it's not only the big festivals that are taking a hit. The Association Of Independent Festivals have reported a diminution of their sales 44%, showing coronavirus pandemic as the reason.
Unfortunately, it's not solely musicians who are being affected. New startups, booking agencies, managers, venues and record labels are also highly troubled by these overwhelming roadblocks. In the UK, the studios are closed for at least three weeks and no longer offer mixing services online as before. The music industry is not prepared nor immune to such a problem where no source of revenue can take place. As the outbreak continues, the industry could lose billions of dollars. Live Nation has created a task force that recommends canceling all tours meaning that there won't be any live events in the near future. The label companies or event organizers don't have much of a choice other than to adapt considering that the virus is continuing to spread in a very fast-paced trajectory and well, health comes first. Music biz has to respond quickly, find solutions and continue to offer security to musicians and partners. Whereas musicians must continue to be present on all platforms to engage with fans, keep them interested and come up with interesting ways to promote their music.
All these sound quite apocalyptic.
What Can You Do To Help?
Sounds naive and oblivious but letting the musicians know they are appreciated might be a good start. Personally, after seeing how happy James Blake was after reading the nice comments in his live stream I was convinced that even a comment as simple as "nice work" is effective, at least to begin with. Other than that, many of the independent record stores had to close off due to Coronavirus who trusts on consumers' support during these bizarre and difficult times.
- Even though the stores may be physically closed, you can still order records online and support small businesses. The industry started a global initiative called "Love Record Stores" where music fans and celebrities are being invited to share what their favorite record store is and film themselves. Primal Scream and Franz Ferdinand are amongst the names who participated in this initiative.
- Alongside this campaign, The Recording Academy announced that they have partnered up with MusiCares for a COVID-19 relief fund and they both contributed 1 million dollars each. Similar to this fund, Spotify came up with a music relief project. Streaming your favorite musicians' songs and albums is more important than ever to expose them to a certain visibility during these times but you can also help by the relief project.
"Today we launched the Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief project, which recommends verified organizations that offer financial relief to those in the music community most in need around the world. Currently, we're partnering with MusiCares, PRS Foundation, Help Musicians, Unison Benevolent Fund, and Centre National de la Musique, and are looking forward to adding more partners worldwide. Spotify is making a donation to these organizations and will match donations made via the Spotify COVID-19 Music Relief page dollar-for-dollar up to a total Spotify contribution of $10 million.
- Equal Times, a non-profit based organization in LA has started a Coronavirus Relief Fund for musicians who have had their events canceled
- Patreon has been one of the sources of income for different types of content creators. You can also support your favorite independent artists if they happen to have a Patreon page.
Narrative changes every day and the amount of negative news are quite overflowing from time to time but as long as James Blake's live concert is on Youtube for us to listen whenever and wherever I can go through the quarantine a little longer.
Art: Isabella Rendon