A statement about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on music, musicians and their audiences.
The Music Show, ABC Radio National, 21 March 2020
Only last week on The Music Show I was suggesting you check to see if the gig or concert for which you had tickets was still going ahead. Seems like another age. Now, as we know, nothing’s going ahead and for the foreseeable future. Big events, small events – all cancelled. Across the country – across the world –concert halls and clubs, blues festivals and opera houses are calling off performances; venues are closing their doors. This means our cultural infrastructure is endangered and so are the livelihoods of musicians and other arts workers. Freelancers don’t have jobs, and most don’t have savings, and suddenly – in a matter of days – there’s no work. What can we do to help each other as musicians? What can audience members and listeners do?
First, if you’ve been offered a refund on a ticket for a cancelled gig or a festival pass you could refuse it. You could say keep the ticket; use the money to pay your rent, pay a colleague, buy groceries. And you might consider a donation to the charity, Support Act, which provides crisis relief to musicians and others in the business. Because it’s not just musicians we should worry about, but all the tech crews who support them. Now they need our support.
Then, perhaps it’s time we all started buying music again. Buy tracks, buy an album. Streaming services don’t pay musicians properly, but you can. An album a week? An album a month? If every Music Show listener bought one album a month, it would make a huge difference. A download or a CD – or some of that newfangled vinyl. You’ll appreciate the music more if you’ve paid for it. Go on. Go online and find it. And buy local – not to be jingoistic, but neighbourly.
Speaking of paying for music, have you ever thought of commissioning some? Commissions don’t have to be for symphonies, and they don’t have to be expensive. Do you play an instrument? Commission a composer to write for you. Do you have a favourite singer-songwriter? Pay them to write a song. Or record a song. Or just get in touch with a musician, make them an offer, and ask them what they’d like to do.
And finally, speaking of getting in touch, even if you don’t have a cent to spare you can still offer your support. I bet you’ve been to a show or heard a song that had an impact on you – a favourite album, say. And it crossed your mind to send a fan letter, but you didn’t get round to it or you were shy or you didn’t know where to write. This is the moment to do it. It’s not hard to track down musicians – we all have websites. An email of appreciation won’t pay a musician’s rent, but it might help convince them to keep going.
Please reach out as you can.