If you'd told me a year ago that next year the arts industry will virtually disappear overnight, I would have said, don't be crazy, why would that happen? Fast forward to March 2020 and that's exactly what's happened.
Literally, overnight every musician around the world lost every gig they had booked for the next twelve months...BAM!!! un-employed, just like that overnight and just like most people, they have bills, mortgages/rent and families to feed as well.
So what do musicians do now?
Well, the first thing to do is to re-educate a lot of the general public (not all) for a start. It seems that since the birth of the digital and streaming age, that a lot of the general public (seems to be worse here in Australia) expect that musicians should give away their music...why?
Here's one take of it, there's more to it but this is a big factor. 20 years ago and beyond, bands and musicians albums only had physical products. The consumer could touch, see and feel the worth of that product in their hands, via vinyl cassettes and then CD’s.
Now with the digital age, there's nothing to hold, so there's this miss-conception that there's no value in it...well that couldn't be further from the truth.
You see us musicians didn't manufacture the vinyl, cassettes or CD's, yes you can hold them in your hand but a company manufactured it into the product, not the band. What musicians create, is the music, hours and hours, sometimes relentless painful times, writing, arranging, re-writing to create the music. Hours locked away from our family and friends trying to perfect our art for the listener.
Then there's the expense of rehearsal studios to perfect the music, the huge expense to hire a recording studio, engineers to record the music, then it needs to be sent to a mastering studio, which also adds to the costs, plus artwork and promotion etc, etc to then the expected to give it away...what the, why?
The real value is not in the physical product, it's in the immense amount of time money and effort that musicians put into creating art for this listener. The same amount of time, money and effort, goes into producing an album today as it did 20-30 years ago if anything, more goes into it these days. If you're an independent band like us (Welter), you are paying for it all and wearing all the caps that a record company might wear.
So back to the question, So What Do Musicians Do Now? well, we have to start to think outside the box. Time to create a new platform that we can perform on.
Virtual online concerts and it's something the general public (GP) are going to have to embrace and PAY for, while we are in this pandemic. Streaming concerts on special platforms, where a band can set up, with full sound production so there is high-quality audio streaming out to the listener, that they purchase a ticket for online and then, receive a login code to the concert.
Live stream gigs on social media sites, Facebook, Instagram etc, that may not be as hi-quality in production, so there's no up-front ticket purchase but the musicians can at least have a virtual tip jar via PayPal, Venmo etc, to earn something for their effort to entertain the listener, it's the new type of busking.
BUY their products, regardless of whether it's on Spotify or not, just buy their album, buy their merch, t-shirts, hats, whatever they have
Jump on board crowdfunding, which most bands do to raise funds to record, which is really a pre-sale for their next release.
Try asking a carpenter to come to your place for a BBQ with your friends and while he's there ask him to build a pergola in your backyard for free, in return you'll give him exposure to your friends for his business. I guess you know what the answer will be, so why the heck should musicians be expected do it? This happens a lot and also in venues in our experience in Australia.
The world would be a very dull and lifeless place without the arts industry, it's easy to take it for granted and to not think for a second when turning on the TV or having the radio on in the car, playing your favourite playlist on Spotify. What if that all vanished overnight? How boring would life be...just think about it, no entertainment whatsoever... bad right?
This is written to give some perspective from a musicians side of things and is by no means an angry blog, a slightly frustrating blog maybe but not angry. It's nobody's fault that musicians worth has diminished, it's just whats happened, but this doesn't mean it can't change right? And as I mentioned this is just one angle of the issue, there's a whole series of blogs that could be written on this topic.
So the next time a band that you like asks for a tip on their live stream or have tickets for an online concert or a link to their shop, help them out where you can so that you can always turn on the entertainment when you want and feel good about it.
If your reading this I hope you understand that musicians work bloody hard and get very little for it, I'm talking about the independent muso, not the Ed Sheeran's or the U-2's of the world (no disrespect) they work hard too but they are making millions and will be ok. It's independent muso's that are hurting bad, so please spare a thought and a few dollars for them when you can, it will make a difference more than you know.
Here's a sample of what we have been doing during the lockdown, and yes there's a Paypal tip jar if you like.😊