If you make your living from any sector of the music business, there is a lot to be upset about during this pandemic. Artists of all kinds have been economically affected drastically, and we still have no idea when the music industry will be returning to any sort of normality. Far too many people who once had pretty much guaranteed income from shows, festivals, and events have seen their revenue streams dry up and disappear. Or they have been let go or their hours reduced and are struggling to make ends meet. Venues have closed or are in danger, barely hanging on with paying their rent. Outside of streaming gigs, it’s uncertain when live music events with actual live audiences will be making a comeback. I am not making light of any of this.
Folks, we’ve had almost a year since the first lockdowns related to COVID-19 began in the United States and the UK. On top of the pandemic, UK artists and workers are dealing with the economic fallout of Brexit, whose ripple effects will not be felt fully until some time. A year is more than plenty of time to contemplate what and how the pandemic has negatively impacted our industry. I’ve seen so many angry posts pointing the finger at how our governments have failed our industry, how Brexit was a bad idea and is going to have long-term effects, and how the major labels and the big players like Spotify and Apple Music should have already stepped in with their money. I understand the anger, but blame without positive action and forward movement isn’t the answer. It’s not constructive.
I am not a fortune teller. I do not have a one size fits all solution to the many situations that need tackling. The problems are broad and diverse. What I do know is that the music industry, while I’ve been part of it, has not been an agile business. It has been slow to make much needed changes for the benefit of the artists. One only has to look at the amount of time it took for streaming services to catch up and recoup some of the industry’s financial losses to music piracy and due to the precipitous decrease in physical music purchases that began around the millennium. Even now, we all know that many artists are still not making much money from these streaming services.
A project by a friend of mine has given me some hope. He has reached out to friends near him and is soliciting ideas on what they can do regionally to help each other, no matter what walk of life in the music business they work in. This, to me, is going to be the key for us moving forward: communicating, connecting, and working with each other at a grassroots community level are all going to be paramount. Supporting each other, not just in financial but mental terms, too, will also be important because the task up ahead is monumental.
While it would be nice to receive them, we cannot wait for solutions and injections of money from higher up. We know the business outside our own door and what our most important needs are now and better than anyone else. As daunting as this all sounds, we don’t need to solve the big issues tomorrow. But we must get started on what we can today.
American Federation of Musicians’ COVID-19 Resources
Brookings Institute: “Measuring COVID-19’s devastating impact on America’s creative economy” (PDF, published August 2020)
SoundExchange’s Resources for Music Creators During the Coronavirus Outbreak
Creative Industries Federation: The Projected Economic Impact of Covid-19 on the UK Creative Industries (PDF, published June 2020)
Musicians’ Union Government Measures for the Music Industry