We all know that the Covid-19 crisis has hit the music industry hard. Different campaigns around the world like #wemakeevents, #redalert, and #letthemusicplay were held to get the attention of people and governments. Bands and musicians are not able to perform much therefore are left without an income. Without the help funds of governments, it is very likely that many venues will not survive, and of course, without venues to play at, musicians will have no place to play their music.
To get more insight into how artists/bands are feeling about how the music industry is perceived, in different parts of the world, Dave Pearson, Dawne Meyers and I reached out to some musical artists to asked some questions. To hear what they have to say about the current situation and to see the differences per country.
A short introduction of the artists we reached out to:
Soham De is a singer-songwriter from England. He has played regularly across the UK and Europe supporting artists and playing festivals like WOMAD Festival, Boardmasters and Pinkpop. His third EP “About Happier Things” was also recently released, you can read the review here: https://digitalbeatmag.com/soham-de-releases-ep-about-happier-things/
Lords Of The Trident is a heavy metal/power metal band from Madison, WI. They have toured with many high-profile bands such as Steel Panther, Puddle Of Mud and Of Montreal. Aside from making music, they also make videos about their insights into the music industry. For example, how to grow a bigger audience for your band. Check out their YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/lordsofthetrident
Sofia Dragt is a Dutch artist and composer. Besides releasing multiple singles this year, she has also composed the music for a Dutch nature documentary. Her latest single “Come Home” is being used for a national TV commercial. She also played at Festival The Brave in 2019 of which you can read the review of here: https://digitalbeatmag.com/amsterdams-festival-the-brave-brings-out-the-sun/
Three to One (3:1) based in Indianapolis, IN, is a trio playing sixties and seventies music focusing mainly on Jam bands like Little Feat, Grateful Dead, and Jerry Garcia band. The band members are Tom Kiefaber, Jon McKinney, Joe O’Connel, Nancy Moore, Jamika Jones, Tim Fuller and Bill Mallers. To find out more about this band you can read the interview that Dawne (Pix) Meyers recently had here: https://digitalbeatmag.com/getting-to-know-indianas-own-three-to-one-31-and-starcat/
Siiga (real name Richard Macintyre) is a singer-songwriter originating from the Isle of Skye, Scotland. The music Siiga makes is perfect for people that like to dream away and forget about the world for a minute. He just released his album “Gemini Rising” featuring the singles “Gemini Rising”, “Breath”, “Sleep Fast” and “La Luna”. You can listen to his album here: https://open.spotify.com/album/0mgv9NIk0ZbVu5Evoj0E7k?si=FBpEthUbSQ-FRG96DupYNA
These were the questions we asked the artist:
As a musician, do you feel supported by your government with the corona crisis?
Soham De: I do not feel supported by my government. Whilst I appreciate we are in unprecedented times, if I’m to be honest, the arts industries, in general, do feel overlooked/under-supported by the government. Even before the pandemic, live venues with long-lasting reputations were facing closures and the pandemic has been the final nail in the coffin for them. As a working musician trying to establish himself, these venues are key to engaging with fans and meeting new fans. The culture and history found in these venues is also one of a kind and with the lack of support from the government during the crisis, the situation is even worse.
Lords Of The Trident: No, not at all. Long story short, our government is fucking things up HORRIBLY for people in the United States. I feel like literally, any other functional adult could’ve handled this better. Heck, if Lords of the Trident were in charge, we’d have this thing under wraps already. We’d keep everyone in their houses under threat of dragon-fire. Go out without a mask on? You’d be fried to bits in an instant.
Sofia Dragt: I’m glad to have enough income still, so I’m not using the support. I do hear from other musicians that they’re happy with the support, but that the rules of the support are very difficult and always changing.
Three to One (3:1): (all band members) NO.
Siiga: Tricky question as I don’t really feel that I have ever been particularly supported directly as a musician by the government, in my own experience at least they don’t really tend to impact the lives of small independent musicians and only really tend to take an interest in you once you start making some money they can tax you on!
I’ve heard there are a few funds that have been raised here and there to try and support musicians, for example, I saw one that PRS (Performing Rights Society) were running briefly but I haven’t really seen any sign of direct government support for musicians on the ground. Most of us as musicians are used to having to hustle our livings so I think we are probably mostly taking matters into our own hands and trying to get by in our own ways rather than wait for any handout.
What level of support have you observed from your community, various government agencies, other artists?
Soham De: From government agencies I know there’s been a £1.57 billion care package for the arts industries in grants and loans but I’m not sure where that money goes in terms of live music and obviously that’s a huge number but I’m unsure how many people it has to be split over and in what quantities. Community-wise, I’ve been keeping my head down, but I can see socially-distanced gigs emerging and live-streams have been very popular throughout the pandemic, with other artists engaging with their fans and releasing music as well as just connecting with them through social media by showing their lifestyle and what they’re doing amidst the pandemic.
Lords Of The Trident: The metal community at large has been fantastic in their support of each other. We’ve been helping people set up their live streams and Patreon pages, and many of our friends are promoting each others’ releases, streaming events, and more. There’s no doubt in my mind that everyone wants this to be over as soon as possible, but we’ve all acquiesced to the fact that we’re going to be stuck inside for a while, so we might as well make the most out of it.
Sofia Dragt: Buma/Stemra and Sena joined forces and have an ‘emergency fund’, so that’s great. This is only for work-related costs, so not for ‘living’ costs. But it’s difficult and strange because it’ll cut you off from a part of the support you’ll get from the government for ‘living’ because it’s income.
Siiga: Again, this is pretty much the same answer as above. I’ve seen some artists try and raise money for themselves by being very honest and just asking for support from their fans but I think the best solution is probably to just try and create good work and direct people to that in a clear way where there is an option to pay for it and support you if they can. Musicians are only a tiny part of the global population who are losing their incomes and securities right now so I think it’s important to not sit expecting some sort of special treatment because you work in the arts, everyone is trying to find their way and of course, this would be far easier if the government made a clear line for musicians to follow to get help but we all know governments don’t work that way but still seem surprised when they leave us high and dry, this current Covid situation is such a massive problem that the longer we allow it to dominate us, the further we will get from anything being a priority for help other than just endlessly focusing on this virus.
What change towards the music industry and live music would you like to see?
Soham De: I think currently in the UK, the music industry and attitudes towards live music are very fickle, pandemic or not. There are groups of incredible people that love to discover new music and support up-and-coming artists and for that, I’m truly grateful. However, in the UK, the impression I get is that if people haven’t heard of you or you’re not a household name, then it can be tricky to introduce your music and promote it. Whereas in places like Holland, for example, the attitude towards live music is so much healthier, with people willing to give new artists a chance to be heard, also on bigger festivals as well as more local ones.
Lords Of The Trident: Multiple things!
1 – Earlier shows! Many of the shows around here still go until like 2 am, which is stupid!
2 – More artist investment in their own financial independence. Many artists are afraid or against things like crowdfunding, Patreon, etc…but are just now learning why they should have invested in these things years ago!
3 – A great appreciation for live shows in general. I hope the temporary loss of live music will bolster people’s love of actually going out to see bands live.
Sofia Dragt: That it’ll be as flexible as it is now with the number of people in an airplane. That a more normal amount of people can be at concerts again, as long as we’re respectful to one another and keep distance as much as possible.
Three To One (3:1): Joe O’Connell: More Independence. Nancy Moore: I think it’s giving some of the venues a chance to really get to know each other better. It seems like they’re working together to try and help each other out more. I didn’t feel that in the past; that’s what I’ve noticed. Before, you couldn’t play venues within a month of playing another and things like that. And I think that’s changed. I think everyone’s more “let’s just support each other!” – I know they’ve come together to create the independent venue alliance (https://www.indianavenuealliance.org) and I believe that’s helped.
Siiga: We are now totally focused on streaming which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing but I do think the way the earnings are distributed is completely unfair. We as writers really do receive a pittance from these companies for indefinite use of our work as free stock for their stores and long gone are the days of a small indie band or artist being able to chip away on low level selling CDs at £10 a unit for example. So I would love to see these big juggernauts perhaps share the revenue in a more generous way amongst the musicians they profit from hosting because let’s face it, all they have really done is create a software platform to display our work on, their costs are relatively low as a business, they have no premises and we do all the promotion for them anyway so the percentage they make from the industry on the whole for basically being a digital shop window in my opinion at least is totally unjustified.
What changes have you seen that you feel have the most potential to impact the future of the music industry?
Soham De: I think the social distancing restrictions, as well as travel restrictions and/or quarantines, will make live shows difficult, especially for artists that play a lot abroad. I’m unsure of how easy/difficult this is going to be till I try it but I think these two have the most potential.
Lords Of The Trident: Honestly – live streaming. I think as more bands see the benefits, financial or otherwise, of playing live streaming concerts, there’s going to be a greater push to add streaming shows into their regular operations. We’re already talking about doing a live stream show every month in addition to our live shows once this is all over.
Sofia Dragt: A little afraid of, for example, festivals. That it’ll take a very long time that that’s going to happen again. And even though it’s beautiful to see how a lot can happen online, it’s not the same thing as live. Maybe there will be more recording artists than live acts.
Siiga: If you mean changes around what is going on in the world right now then of course the main one is the fact we are being banned from sharing the live experience of music together while we try to work out what the solution is to whatever this pandemic even is. This has shaken the industry from the top-down as live performance had become the main and last healthy source of income for most performers. So I am imagining that lack of money arriving for what will be almost a year fairly soon, will begin to take its toll on management, promoters, and labels which will as it always does in turn transfer that burden onto the artists to try and carve some money from their work in other ways with what little they have left to try and create a new model for this all to work on.
What do you find your biggest challenges are at this time?
Soham De: Right now, just keeping mentally on top of things and figuring out what the next stages are. But part of me wants to put that on hold and dive into writing – it’s been a while with this pandemic leaving me feeling very claustrophobic. I think overthinking in this time can be a big problem as well – the panic setting in and how uncertain things are. So just keeping mentally focused and concentrating on honing my craft.
Lords Of The Trident: Mental health. Of course, some bands rely 100% on their music and touring for an income, but a large majority of the bands out there do not. However, not having concrete goals and being stuck in the same place day in and day out with no glimmer of excitement on the horizon (for example, “ah! I can’t wait for the show this weekend!” or “I can’t wait to get out on the road next week.”) can really take a toll on people’s mental health. I certainly have felt this way more often than not. This extra stress and depression can lead to very real health issues, so I think we need to be there for each other a little more in these challenging times.
Sofia Dragt: Knowing what to believe, trusting the government for making particular decisions. And also, making plans when you don’t know for sure if it’ll really happen.
Three To One: Joe O’Connell: Depression! Jamika Jones: For me, it’s the mental health; this is an outlet for so many people, you know, us included.
Joe O’Connell: It’s therapeutic for me (the music) and I know I can speak for everybody here…You know, everybody’s got their own spiritual / religious beliefs, but this is kind of our religion. Not necessarily our job per se, but we (all) live and breathe the music.
So it’s been horrible!! Nancy Moore: We played a show about a month ago and it was the first time that I’d sung since February. We did a song together and (afterwards) I turned around cause I just had chills – it just felt so wonderful! And I said, “I either have COVID or that was really great! Tommy Kiefaber: I got a fever (*group laughs) Nancy Moore: Yes, exactly! It just kinda fills your soul!
Siiga: The challenges are to find ways to follow up on the release of new music as in a normal scenario you finish your record and then head off out to promote it and perform it to people. So at the moment you are really just having to think about the online tools that are at your disposal to try and communicate your work in ways you hope are interesting beyond just sharing an initial song recording with people.
What do you think the biggest challenge or challenges will be to keeping the music alive?
Soham De: I’m unsure what the biggest challenge will be for certain but I’d say that in terms of keeping the music alive, I think adapting to how things will be recovering from the pandemic as well as seeing how artists, the public and the industry react going forward and how well that mixes.
Lords Of The Trident: The venues. There will be SO MANY music venues that will close, there may not be many places left to play. I mean, realistically, we’re not going to be comfortable being in large crowds until 3-4 months after a vaccine is released. That’s, what, July 2021? If we’re lucky? That’s an awfully long time for venues to sit, empty, with no income. I would hope that the government would step in to help, but with the current people in charge, I’d probably have more luck asking a toddler to build me a guitar.
Sofia Dragt: That the rules are constantly changing and you can’t really plan concerts or events because you never know what’ll happen. So trust will be a big challenge.
Three To One: Joe O’Connell: Well, I go back to the independent thing – I think we have a chance to get rid of the huge Live Nation type sheds and places around. So I think there’s a really good chance that everybody’s seeing the independent side of venues and opportunities…this is where you really want to go. You know, it’s like when we were young, The Patio in Broad Ripple was the place, but now, you have places like the Dugout, which has become a nice spot for live music and Fountain Square is probably THE spot in Indianapolis to hear original music – I think there’s a chance that independent people (musicians) might see the independent venues as really valuable; otherwise, you have those big corporations like Live Nation that might buy up everything (venues) and limit what is seen and heard; it all becomes very generic.
Nancy Moore: I mean, you look at what has happened to the restaurant industry since the shutdown…people are going to their local restaurants more and they’re supporting more local businesses; they’re not going to the Applebee’s like they used to or at least it doesn’t seem like they are. I think people will support music more. I think they’ll want to see live bands more than DJ’s now. I mean, I sent out text messages today about the gig tonight and everyone’s like, “What? Live music?” People are just excited to hear live music again. They took it for granted. In the beginning, everyone was like, “We’ll be able to get out in a month and see everyone. And now it’s like, Whoa…
Tommy Kiefaber: Well, It’s also slim pickings out there for live music. Before there was a band over here and a band over there – everything was a little oversaturated – everybody’s under-cutting the next and nobody makes any money doing anything unless you work your ass off like Joe and really go out and try to book rooms, good gigs and bring in a decent following of fans and stuff like that! It’s a lot of work.
Joe O’Connell: Overall, I guess we are saying, Support Local! Local venues, local musicians, local bands. Together we can get through this and save the music.
Siiga: Music will never die, it will adapt and change as it always does. When the mp3 came on the scene people were lamenting the death of music and the industry but here we are years later and there’s more new music appearing than ever as people learned to adapt and turn perceived weaknesses into strengths, it’s what artists do and they will find a way through this too, how I have no idea yet but time will reveal the way.
Although we won’t be able to enjoy live music as we were used to any time soon, there are still many different ways we all can help to support the bands or artists we love. Buy their albums or merchandise, share their music and if there happens to be a live show, go see them! It all helps and makes a difference.