With live performance venues and pubs losing vital business and revenue, how does this impact the music industry and the artists that rely on these businesses?
The past year has been vastly different to how we usually go about our lives. Everyone around the world has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in some way. Topical discussions regarding the aftermath of the pandemic include the effects on people and groups of society. Seeing many small businesses closing, including live performance venues and pubs, what do artists in the music industry have to say about the pandemic? More importantly, how have these unfortunate times affected them? Being in the music industry myself, I asked several fellow musicians for their opinions. These artists range from rap, indie and rock genres.
The Steel Magpies
This relatively new but excellent four-piece rock band consists of Aaron, Ammaar, Ben and Josh. When asked about the pandemic’s impact, Aaron answers: “having formed at City in October 2018, we spent our first year exclusively performing at City Bar and other university related events. However, at the beginning of last year, we began branching out and slowly started getting gigs outside university. Unfortunately, since the pandemic, those plans have been put on hold”.
“Writing has been off and on since the pandemic. Before COVID, we used to write individually as well collaborate on ideas. Consequently, we’ve still been writing independently and sharing ideas with each other as best we can on WhatsApp. Collectively arranging songs and co-writing has been more difficult. So we are all desperate to get together again and hammer out some music like we used to”.
On the topic of lockdowns, Ben said “lockdowns in theory give you more time to dedicate to writing, but in practice they’re extremely uninspiring environments. You’re not really doing much, so you don’t have anything in your own life to write about. The monotony of being stuck inside, doing uni work and not being able to socialise every day wears you down. It makes it hard to have a real creative energy or motivation to write. We’ve done some short recordings for social media, but we can’t meet up to play together. It’s not something we can simply do over the internet because of the delay on calls. The pandemic has put everything on hold. It’s demoralising and I can’t wait until it’s over and we can get back to writing and performing again”.
Despite the restrictions, Ammaar promises “exciting stuff on the way after lockdown!”. So be sure to keep an eye on The Steel Magpies.
AJAXX’92 is a Californian-based music artist. He is not only known for his music, but also capturing other creative sounds in his playlists. When asked about the pandemic’s impact on the music industry, he said “the pandemic has definitely diminished my ability to do live performances. It also affected my ability to expand my audience. Regarding writing, the amount of introspective music I’ve been writing has substantially increased. I’m at home which means I’m in my head more so than anything. I find it incredibly difficult to write party music. When I get the vibe it feels like a prisoner feeling the sun after being in solitary lockdown for a week or two”.
When asked if music in the pandemic has become better or worse, he replied, “I think that all depends on what music you typically listen to. If you like the rage, then yeah music has gotten worse because there is no market for it currently due to the pandemic. However, if you like spiritual music, things that make you think about self and how it relates to past l, present, and future then yeah, it’s gotten better. I’m pretty happy with the atmosphere of music as it hasn’t remained static. I feel like albums have become more dynamic since the pandemic began”.
His final message on this topic was to “please check out and show love to independent artists. You may find your favourite artist doing this. When live performances come back, there’s nothing more exciting than being in a small venue really connecting with someone you discovered”.
Be sure to check him out and give him a follow on all platforms.
A living legend in the contemporary post hardcore music scene. Renowned globally for being the vocalist/drummer for Hail the Sun and other side projects (Sianvar & Nova Charisma). Donovan has a lot of experience creating music and performing live. When asked about the impact of the pandemic on his work, his response was “since touring has gone away, a large part of my focus has been to song writing. Both as a solo musician and as a member of the bands I am in. It’s important to do what we are able to do during this time in order to be prepared for when live entertainment comes back. It’s really only motivated me to try to be ahead of the curve”.
When asked if the pandemic has improved the music industry in any way, he replied “this would be too tough for me to answer. It is very subjective in nature. I think that more (better) than not, it has lent additional inspiration for artists to latch onto and turn into art. So probably has made it better”.
His advice for struggling musicians is “to try to remain hopeful that things will go back to a version of the way they were before. Use this time to refine your craft. Find ways to grow and take advantage of this time. So that when it does get back to a normal working schedule, you feel like you have used that time wisely”.
If you are not familiar with post hardcore music be sure to check out Donovan’s bands. If that is not your preferred taste, his solo work has a softer tone.
Nohland is another upcoming independent artist who writes, produces and sings his own songs. Nohland’s music focus is more pop and indie inspired. His thoughts on the pandemic’s affect on music are that “it is hard to find inspiration. It’s hard to work with people, especially when it comes to finding motivation when practicing. It makes me want to jump out of a window. Having dealt with coronavirus myself, it makes me aware of the levels of difficulty of the situation”.
Nohland says “music has been worse during this pandemic. I feel people have been trying to avoid releasing music this past year. I can’t find any emotional value to music that has been recently released”.
“In 2021, I feel more optimistic that music will be the norm again with venues opening up and having the ability to practice and create music with others”.
Keep an eye on Nohland as he will be releasing his new song East Coast Dream soon.
Cardiff based indie funk band King Cerulean know how to put on a show. Their bass guitarist, Gautam, joined the band in 2019. He plays with a heavy slap bass funk influence. He shared his thoughts on how the pandemic affected the music industry and his band:
“The pandemic definitely affects live music, as in it can’t happen. The bands cannot perform and make a living as the pubs and venues are shut which shows a big knock-on effect”.
Gautam feels as if “live music isn’t seen as a proper job by the (UK) government”. Also the music and performing arts sector “hasn’t been dealt with properly economically”. His opinion on the government’s pledge of support was “that wouldn’t be enough to account for all the grassroots venue businesses and artists, especially when the big companies (e.g., Wetherspoon’s) secured a £48 mil loan from the government”.
When questioned if music created during this pandemic has been better or worse, he replied “the music created during this pandemic reflected the emotions of artists during this pandemic. Bring Me The Horizon’s current album is different to their previous albums. It exemplifies the emotions they were feeling during this year. This also helps some as they may be able to relate with the music emotionally. It can get them through tough times”. He acknowledged that people may not be feeling inspired to create music right now.
King Cerulean will be releasing new music soon after their first single Situation. If you are into indie and funk, you will appreciate their appeal.
London based upcoming rap artist Arkae has been progressing in his career. He is an artist who is focused, perfecting his flow and lyricism on every track. Some of Arkae’s most notable tracks are Uni Dorms, The Come Up and Net Worth.
His experience on creating music during the pandemic: “sometimes you can just sit down and make music regardless of the circumstances, but a lot of the time inspiration comes from experiences, so the first few lockdowns were deffo a struggle for me to be creative”.
On the topic of music being better or worse during the pandemic, he said “I don’t think covid has made music any worse, I just think everyone’s workrate has taken a hit”.
Be sure to follow Arkae on all platforms and hear his latest track Risks.
Based on everyone I spoke with, there have been some consistencies across different genres and parts of the world. Limitations of creativity has been a reoccurring theme, alongside not being able to record and rehearse properly.
As a funk rock guitarist myself, who had plans to piece together a band before the pandemic hit, it has been a struggle. I have been able to adapt by utilising social media, posting music, and starting collaboration videos. The way I turned the negatives of the pandemic to positives was to keep an opened mindset on how to improve.
It is easy to relax and binge watch Netflix to drown any worries. If you can utilise your time, even in attempting to be productive, that is already one step closer to reaching your goal. Gradually those steps can become a habit. If you are in my situation, new to the music industry, do it and stick with it. Even if you think there is little hope now, keep in mind “there’s always sun after a storm”.