A lot of attention has been given to the impact the coronavirus crisis has had on the arts sector. While it’s great that the creative industries have not been forgotten, most of the coverage has focused on venue closures and cancelled gigs. However, this is only part of the story.
There’s no denying that this has been a tough year for most musicians. Between the loss of income and general uncertainty about the future, the struggle has most definitely been real. But, to focus solely on the doom and gloom is to overlook the strength and creativity that’s been on display.
Embracing the digital world
Necessity truly is the mother of invention and the restrictions placed on the music industry this year have required us to think differently. From how music is recorded and released, to how it’s received and enjoyed, we’ve had to come up with new ways to do it all.
The most obvious adaption we’ve seen has been the rise of digital gigs.
While everyone wants to own (or at least be able to stream) their favourite tracks, nothing compares to seeing a live performance. But, with live gigs off the table for most of the year, many artists have made the move online. And, although they’re not the same as being there in person, fans and artists alike have willingly embraced digital gigs.
In fact, digital shows have become so popular that we’ve seen them evolve from simple Instagram lives into full-blown online festivals. In addition to giving more artists an audience; these events have provided a critical income and helped keep the industry alive. This is really quite phenomenal when you consider that 12 months ago, ticketed online gigs were almost unheard of.
Hyping up the socials
Isn’t it funny how being kept apart has brought us closer together? No longer do we take the ability to casually catch up with friends and family for granted. And social media, which was already an integral part of most people’s lives, has become critical to keeping us connected.This is especially true for many musicians, who have found greater connection with their fans through platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. Artists have increasingly embraced these channels as a way to genuinely engage with their biggest supporters. And, given the important role merch sales and digital tips have played in keeping many afloat this year, this rapport has been priceless.
The increased importance of social media is not particularly surprising though, as music has always been about creating connection. Previously, most artists would foster the relationship with their fans, and get feedback on their material, through their performances. As this has not been possible, it’s only naturally that many have turned to social media to help fill this gap.
A great time for new music
While COVID-19 has unquestionably been a blight on the entire world, there has been some unexpected benefits. One of these is the extra time and space it’s given many musicians to create new material.
For some, writing and recording has been a way to combat the boredom of being stuck at home. For others, not being on the road constantly has allowed them much needed time in the studio. Either way, we’re not looking the gift horse in the mouth… we’re just happy to have all the new tunes.
Audiences have been much more receptive to new music too. The extra time most of us are spending at home has seen a spike in video streaming and radio services. This has increased the exposure to different artists and encouraged many to seek out new tracks.
What does the future hold?
With new infection rates now seemingly under control – at least here in Australia – the industry is slowly starting up again. This is great to see, but it feels like we’re probably still a long way off returning to ‘normal’.
Even if venues get back to full capacity, some patrons will surely still be wary of large crowds. And it’s unlikely we’re going to be seeing many international acts touring for quite a while. Also, while going to a gig again will be great, we don’t want to lose the innovation and creativity we’ve seen this year.
The coronavirus crisis has been a big test for the industry, and it’s come out the other side much stronger. Whatever the future holds, we’re confident musicians will find a way to continue surviving, thriving, and inspiring.