Could the Pandemic Be a Blessing?
No one wants to think that the current COVID 19 pandemic could be anything but a terrible blow to the music industry. Artists have lost most of their income streams, and without live shows, that all too critical audience interaction has ceased. Small and large concert venues are filing for bankruptcy with no hope of coming back anytime soon. And without a vaccine or cure in the near future, that future looks bleak. But even with all that, I got to thinking that maybe this pandemic is actually a blessing. Maybe the old business models of relentless touring to make a living might be past their best before date, that maybe there is a better way. I know you can’t replace the incredible connection between audience and artist, but maybe there is another way to keep the music flowing and make a living.
We’ve all seen online ZOOM and Facebook concerts with terrible sound and internet glitches galore. We’ve seen artists trying to keep their fans engaged any way they can. But we’ve also seen those same artists increase their audiences a lot with creative videos, how-to classes, songs from the kitchen, bathroom, living room, interactive with musicians from all over the world, Instagram live videos, talk shows, podcasts, anything to keep the audience engaged. I applaud these efforts. The playing fields have been leveled, and to my mind that’s a very good thing.
Instead of lamenting the loss of income, these folks are doing what they do best – sharing their music. They’ve connected with fans and said, “Join me. Come see me. Share your requests, your stories. Tell me what’s going on in your world.” I love that. I think that’s a sign of what could be.
I’ve heard of an artist who is giving a series of concerts from concert halls throughout the lower mainland of BC. He is playing in a theatre, and the concerts are streamed live on Facebook. He even has an opening act, no audience – just him. I know of another artist who has a weekly concert from his living room where he plays a whole show of songwriters he admires. Fans can request songs, and he will play them. I know another one who is holding live concerts in their back yard. There’s social distancing and limited attendance – but folks get to hear live music. Then there’s the artist who is sharing his songwriting talents by explaining his process and sharing how to play the songs in a weekly show. Or the artist who brings other artists onto her podcast from her kitchen table. They’re creative, accessible and very well received.
Of course, the artist who is used to impeccable sound and a live audience may have trouble with the vagaries of the internet and be adverse to sharing in these ways. But I think that we’re on to something. Anyone with the moxie to dive into this new world may find an audience that was largely untapped. Maybe with time we can find a way to make the delivery more seamless. Maybe we can iron out the glitches and produce better concerts. Maybe we can share what we do best in a provocative manner, getting our music to a wider audience. And then maybe we can monetize the effort to make a living.
I don’t tour. Since I don’t drive and my husband can’t, I can’t get places to share my music. But I have access to the internet, so basically the whole world. I’ve dabbled in online concerts and they were terrible, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up. It just means I’m still working on trying to find the best way. I’m thinking of recording a new CD. And thinking long and hard about what that delivery will look like. Videos for songs? Digital offerings? Podcasts with artists sharing? I don’t know. I find it very exciting. It could be a very rewarding future.
And maybe I wouldn’t have got to this place if I hadn’t been forced to stay at home. Food for thought.