by Nick J. Townsend
In March 2020 Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested that Britons avoid pubs, clubs and theatres and stop non-essential travel to reduce the impact of the coronavirus. This announcement created the predicament where live events face cancellation or postponement due to complying with the lockdown culture now known as social distancing. Obviously this is a devastating blow to live bands and to all who are part of the entertainment industry. Independent venues, tour managers, bar staff and yes even gig guide magazines will struggle and be forced to adapt during these uncertain times. Even major artists such as Taylor Swift, Robbie Williams and David Lee Roth have been forced to cancel their shows...so it’s not all bad news.
(1) Capitalising On Chaos
Arguably the worldwide lockdown is the largest social trend since 1981’s The Birdie Song. One thing to expect is a number of musicians using this situation to generate publicity; we can speculate that some bands will announce that one of their members have contracted the virus and later make a miraculous recovery. The hashtags #covid19 and #coronavirus should be the worlds’ most popular search terms on Twitter so expect to see a few musicians using them to boost their careers by live streaming their entire song back catalogue from their kitchen whilst wearing Tshirts with “I survived Covid-19” printed on them; so almost the opposite to escapism.
(2) Venues, Pubs And Clubs
Thanks to the public being urged to remain at home for an unspecified amount of time it’s sure to mean that the music pubs, clubs and venues who totally depend on attendance will suffer. One small idea that may help these businesses is them asking all the bands and artists previously booked to perform into agreeing to become patrons and make a monthly donation until they can be rebooked.
(3) Home Guitar Tuition
With the population self isolating themselves there’s a slight possibility of more Music Teachers offering home tuition services; especially if schools remain shut down. Providing of course they enter homes carrying a mobile decontamination tent whilst wearing a biohazard suit and agree to be hosed down with a gallon of hand sanitiser. Video Skype calls are most likely how things will move forward.
(4) Wedding Bands
Due to weddings being cancelled or postponed because of the alleged pandemic it means that function bands are set to lose a lot of business. Twelve piece bands especially will be affected as some areas are shunning gatherings of more than ten people.
(5) Recording Studios
Unlike a venue a recording studio doesn’t have to accommodate an audience other than the musicians needed for the recording sessions. As long as your engineer hasn’t got a rocketing temperature or is having to keep pausing the recording of vocals because of a violent coughing fit then things should run smoothly.
(6) Outdoor Festivals
Radiation suit gatherings may be one way to solve any concerns with contracting a deadly virus at an outdoor music festival. The American band Slipknot are already more than prepared along with the majority of their hardened fans so adopting this approach could well be the answer. Unfortunately due to travel bans Slipknot may not be allowed into the United Kingdom.
(7) Bedroom Guitarists
Unless the internet is switched off soon there will be an increase in musicians uploading songs that they’ve written and home recorded during their confinement; so expect classic tunes to appear such as “I Can’t Get No Sanitisation”, “Papa’s Got A Brand New Toilet Roll”, “Every Short Breath You Take”, “I Don’t Wanna Hold Your Hand”, “Hyperthermia Rhapsody” and “Coughing All Night Long”.
(8) Online Music Sales
If the public are encouraged to stay in their homes for weeks then this could mean them streaming or downloading more music than normal. However, with many music fans out of work desperately trying to afford their rent they may end up selling their iPods or MP3 players along with their entire music collection in exchange for a can of baked beans.
Attempting to play music in the cold deserted streets is likely to not only completely lower your self esteem as a musician but put you more at risk of catching pneumonia. No crowds equals no voluntary donations and your only audience could be people who look like the evil scientists that tried to capture E.T. The Extraterrestrial so watch out.
(10) Live Streaming Shows
A concept likely to emerge in popularity as a result of the Government pressuring venues to close their doors is bands promoting Pay-Per-View Live Gigs streamed from home or even an empty venue. A band or broadcaster streams the event from their exotic location or spare bedroom at the same time to everyone ordering it for say £10 in an effort to recreate the exact same experience of traveling back and forth to a live gig.
This ideally means saving you a taxi fare and an exciting memorable return journey from a real gig. You’ll avoid a cheeky frisk from venue security and look forward to duplicating a professional live sound system by using an iPhone, plus no more chatting up bar staff during the set of the support band. Getting ridiculously drunk with crazy fun friends or socialising hard is unnecessary because now you can enjoy and share the time self isolating with family instead in the comfort of your own quarantined home.
Using some imagination you can re-enact yourself crowd surfing by groin-sliding along a dinner table, urinating in the bathtub before the headline band begins and if you miss dicks or pairs of tits flashing you in the entrance of the venue toilets then you can always depend on your grandparents to step in to add extra live gig realism. You shouldn’t notice much difference watching a streamed show on your cell phone so prepare for an almost identical experience; of course instead of purchasing a rare physical CD from the band after the show you’ll have to download their album off Snotify for £10 which unfortunately has the danger of sounding a thousand percent more professional than a live streamed event.
(11) The Future Of The Independent Musician
There is of course no possible way to accurately predict what we as independent musicians can expect to happen but we do have some choices. We can either let circumstances destroy everything we’ve built or we can adapt and fight to preserve it like we always have had to no matter how difficult things appear. Some music businesses will not get through this; there will be change but there will always be survivors and our culture must survive. Hold tight everyone and speak to you next time. Good luck.
Nick J Townsend is the frontman and guitarist for British band Weak13. An experienced Underground musician and music promoter, film producer, all round good guy & supporter of original music.