The show can’t go on
How COVID-19 affects the music industry
Nothing really unites the world like music. Whether someone wants to call it a universal language, or a sonic enigma capable of changing someone’s emotional experience in a million different ways, it has a gravity like none other to bring people together. With a global pandemic limiting communal gatherings to less than 10, that has been put on an indefinite hold.
A data collecting and global music network company called Vibrate has already reported over 300 festivals have been cancelled due to the crisis. It’s important to note that festivals that have already established, confirmed lineups are still expected to pay out the front end deposit of their artists. There’s nothing wrong with that contractual structure in normal circumstances, but with a virus shutting down gatherings indefinitely, many festivals and venues don’t have the funds to take those kinds of hits without a payout in the end.
While venues struggle to pay out the artists who were fortunate enough to land big festivals, most musicians and event workers are completely out of work. Live For Live Music cited The Music Union statistic stating that 94% of UK musicians work as freelancers. Olga FitzRoy, an accredited recording engineer said in Forbes Magazine, “I think people often only see the glamorous side of the music business, forgetting that musicians, studios and engineers usually live at the bottom of the supply chain, and are often living hand-to-mouth with not much in the way of savings.” Those at the bottom are completely out of work whether on the stage or behind. With Live Nation pausing all tours and cancelling others, employees dedicated to the promoter for decades have been laid off. Forbes also reported that analysts believe the music business industry may lose $5 billion.
The live concert industry is also a huge stimulator for local economies. SXSW was reported to bring in $356 million to Austin last year, according to Rolling Stone, and Coachella reportedly brought in $805 million to Coachella Valley out of its $1.4 billion in profits. Restaurants and bars rely on this foot traffic as well, so the economic effect is exponentially crippling. But companies are beginning their attempt to help the industry survive now. Pollstar, a data-collecting trade publication for live concerts has posted an updated column specifically for the virus’ updated effects on the industry, and at the top of their page, they include a reference guide of resources available for those struggling.
Truly, it is a tragedy for all, but the musicians, venue operators, managers and every other worker in the industry whose income depends on the show going on are going to suffer greatly. There has never been a more important time to support the musicians who brighten and enliven the lives of millions every day.