Issue 186 August 2020
The Aftershocks Of The Pandemic
In the aftershocks of the pandemic, musicians have been sidelined, marginalised and all but forgotten. Yes, there have been arts bailouts and rescue packages, but they have been mostly connected with the larger institutions, halls and venues. If you are a 'jobbing' musician, things have been harder... a lot harder. With a few rare and notable exceptions, the life of a professional musician is not one of boundless financial riches at the best of times and the first six months of 2020 highlights that.
The finances of most professional musicians are a combination of income generated from concerts and tours, supplemented by royalties from recordings, or income from teaching. The COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent changes to our social lives and the wider economy has taken all these potential revenue streams from a musician, and some of these income absences may continue long after other parts of the world have reopened.
Many, many good musicians are facing an existential crisis today. Having lost each one of their sources of income, an industry that is often at best a tough way to earn a crust has become hardscrabble. While gig culture will re-emerge, and will likely be a key part of the 'Victory over Coronavirus' day celebrations, those celebrations might not happen for a year or more! During a time of pandemic, the notion of crowding into a hot, sweaty club – or even sitting in an auditorium for a few hours – seems alien and we're unlikely to see a big uptick in one-on-one musical instrument lessons (unless online) for the foreseeable future. Worse, unless you are recording from your bedrooms, the studios remain largely empty.
It's 'difficult' to imagine an orchestra rehearsing and recording while observing social distancing rules (you try to get the brass or woodwind section to wear face masks!) and a tight jazz combo struggles to remain quite as 'tight' if they are all at least 2m apart on stage. All of which means new concerts and recordings will be – at best – numerically attenuated.
Why does this matter to us? Good audio requires good music, and if that source of good music suffers, we all suffer. We can help. If you can afford it, become a patron. If you can't, offer support and donation to local struggling musicians (just ask the venue owners). OK, it seems unlikely that U2 or Coldplay are going to need baling out any time soon, but that great blues player who has gigs in your area or that cellist whose performance melted your heart is very, very likely struggling right now. Just maybe, you can help pay it forward.