There isn’t a single part of the music industry that won’t be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The most obvious are the high profile festival cancellations like Glastonbury and Coachella, and the big stars who are having to postpone tours. But beneath them there is an entire infrastructure of aspiring musicians, session players, sound engineers, booking agents, record shop owners, DJs, labels, tour managers, event staff and more whose livelihoods are at risk with venues closing their doors, and with Boris Johnson saying venues can stay open but advising people to stay away, fear in the industry quickly turned to anger. We spoke to a few people whose lives have been turned upside down in less than a week.
‘People said: we’ll come to the show, it’s fine! But it’s not fine’
Grace Carter, singer-songwriter
I’ve been on tour in Europe. At the shows, there was this weird unity. Everyone was a bit scared, but there was this feeling of: we’re all going to be in a room together and we’re going to enjoy being out. The thing I really struggled with was not being able to interact physically with my fans. My music is very emotional and honest and comes from a deep place, and the people listening to it have maybe had those experiences, too. So I’ve always wanted to hug people and hear their stories.
My band are freelance musicians and my techs will not get paid if the shows don’t happen. I didn’t want to let anyone down. But every show was packed out. I got loads of messages from people saying: we’re still going to come, it’s fine. And it’s actually not fine. I had to take it into my hands, be responsible, and reschedule them so people aren’t put at risk. There should have been an overruling thing saying: there will be no large-scale events happening. But the only thing to do was to make the decision for ourselves.
I’m using this time now to be creative and get my feelings out. We’re all going through the same thing and, knowing we’re all in it together, I think there’s a lot of peace in that.
‘The government is shafting us’
Ben Lewis, head booker at Super Friendz, which runs Belgrave Music Hall and Headrow House in Leeds
Midway through last week we were saying: maybe this’ll all blow over? We toyed with ideas like: what if you put on Shaun of the Dead every night a gig was cancelled? But very quickly it was: no, that’s not funny. By last Friday, the bars were notably quieter. Then, over the weekend, everything was rammed – like people were getting a last weekend out before they have to stay indoors.
From bar staff to directors, everyone is saying the government is shafting us. We wanted to be told what to do – if we were told we had to close, no one can argue with it. But we watched Boris’s press conference, and the general feeling was that the government’s a complete disgrace – it’s a total cop out. We have staff at the bars, we have DJs who are all self-employed, and we feel a responsibility to keep those people in work for as long as possible. But if we stay open, does that put the public in danger? We’ve been given this decision that’s completely impossible.
A big thing we want is government relief for casual workers. Every business like ours is going through hell. Tour managers, engineers, are going: I’ve got absolutely nothing for the next few months now. I don’t know what they’re going to do.
In this industry, people are known for not treating each other the best. Everyone’s constantly stressed. If you’re doing arts in the UK, since the Tories got back, it’s every man for himself. But everyone’s being super-lovely to each other. You have natural rivalries and you butt heads, but I don’t want to see another promoter go under so I can pick up their shows. I just want to see them all OK.
‘I can only compare it to 9/11’
Chris Forsyth, musician and venue owner in Philadelphia
The only thing I can compare this to in my lifetime is being in New York on 9/11, and this is affecting way more people. That was a scary and devastating thing, but the scale of the economic devastation we’re about to see is much larger. The government is going to have to take steps for people to keep shelter, and food on their plates. They’re talking about bailing out the airlines, but regular people are going to need a bailout from this. This [US] administration is rudderless – Trump is all about creating crisis, but we’ve come across a crisis you can’t spin away. I’m trying to keep the panic level down and take it hour by hour.
I had a big tour coming up, 18 shows…
Source Website ‘I’m trying to keep the panic down’ – the coronavirus impact on music | Music