The situation, “Changes from hour to hour” our friend, Rhonda, from the beloved indie pizza restaurant, Masa of Echo Park, tells us, as she voluntarily closed down her dining room after last weekend, the only practical option to maintain social distancing for her customers. Anything short of this would be implausible.
We’ve cancelled our own NIGHT OUT events, due to the health risks for all involved and yet here in the UK we still hear from people saying they won’t change anything about what they do… That’s the backdrop to this fast moving situation, so, everything might’ve changed by the time you read this pondering aloud by the Toon Traveller. Even if it’s the same day as it was published.
On the face of it, this is not something that would normally appear in a music and arts publication, but these are obviously far from normal times. No this is not some comment on aged rockers being at risk. Although there will be losses, I’m sad to say, bound to be... If it’s not age, then a drug ravaged immune system ‘ll do for you old star. Instead, this looks across the current state of play for musicians, across all genres, and all ages, and the sharp end of the music business and what the Virus’ spread across the UK, Europe and the World means for them all.
We already know a lot of music is streamed, with miniscule rewards for the overwhelming majority of performers. The Virus should have little effect on this, and this will continue, largely unaffected by the virus’ spread. There could be further delays and lag time and problems with distributors/aggregators getting new material online. Could this be the time for people like Spotify to allow for individual uploading through their Spotify for Artists program to take the load off? CD’s & vinyl are another matter, the effects of a lockdown on the European continent could impact manufacturing plants and distribution lines. There could be shortages of staff or raw materials. In retail, in countries like Spain, most Cities have at least ONE good CD store, popular with all generations, in the UK more than a few towns still have several record stores.
But independent record stores in Europe and here in the UK are on a knife edge, and depend on regular customers, that’s true North East, in Almeria, and in Malaga, all cities with excellent music stores in my opinion. The effects of a lockdown in Spain will be disastrous for the stores there, similarly the UK too will face the same disaster upon pursuance of the lockdown strategy, and this may be nearer than we think, we are already talking about isolating elderly people.
Record Store day is One month away and might not even make it. We could face a Spanish or Italian lockdown soon, for local Record Stores, dependent on purchases on that special day, this may push some over the edge, or push them under, into bankruptcy. So perhaps we could take a little think about how much we love our local indie stores...
Ponder this :-
Record store day, sure, yeah, I want to see what special issues it brings, BUT there’s that Slade’s Greatest Hits or The Verve’s album, or Miles Davis” - add your own you’ve always wanted here… available now.
I would say for those already released discs, don’t wait for Record Store Day, 18th April, buy them now, give the store a bit of cash, and then IF the stores are still actually open for Record Store day, pop in for that Special Treat, if there is a Spanish, Italian style Lockdown by then, at least they’ll have had some cash and that may tide them over a very difficult period. It ‘s one of those things when it’s gone, it’s gone, and with it the delights of physical purchase.
You know, that feeling; fingering through the rack, artist name, seeing the cover, checking the tracks, appreciating the art work, hazy memories of a track, from a distant youth, pictures in your head, of a live gig or festival, heard years ago on the radio, or just the words of an evocative review dancing in your head.
Whatever, chat with the seller, pay, pocket, wander out, anticipation, coffee, pull out, read sleeve notes, home, stylus into Groove, CD clicks into place, and the magic begins. Can we risk losing this simple recurring pleasure? Let’s try to stop it happening, and support a store now AND on Record Store Day, in so doing, we can fight the Virus of fear, depression, and decline for ourselves and record shop owners, and brighten up our own ‘locked down world.
Coronavirus is a more serious threat to the viability and livelihood of venues. If large gatherings are banned, as in Scotland, especially in enclosed spaces, this will be a disaster for the oh so essential venues earning bands much more than poor download royalties. In my part of the world there are often 1 or 2 gigs, 3 nights a week. Shows from relatively well known bands touring, for whom gigging is their main money earner, and there’s a myriad of new and rising bands, also semi pro-bands, whose gigs at least cover their costs. These all will be at risk from enforced closure, or customer virus fear. Equipment rental and musical instrument shops will by further threatened by the fall out.
In the case of Government directive there’s nothing I can see that we can do, it’s a law, it’ll be widespread, and rigorously enforced. Worryingly the venues, charging or not, will be losing money, facing closure, many of these venues , especially pubs, are labours love run, and maybe even part subsidised by pub owners, perhaps they will be fortunate and receive govt support through the closure period, I am NOT convinced.
THESE VENUES ARE AT RISK, don’t know about your part of the world, but in mine I’ve already seen people staying at home, giving the pub a miss. Coronavirus fears, both for fans and bands, are starting to impact on the lives of the music industry, right here and right now. The last time we faced anything like this, vague memories of the 1970’s, three day week, music press stories, cancelled tours, tales of venues silenced, pub bands stilled. No clear recollections, but a sense of a wave of small venues closed in the aftermath, pubs giving up on music, bands folding, it was pre-punk, so not a question of taste change revolution.
This Virus could very likely have the same effect, LET ME BE CLEAR - I am not advising we rush out to live bands, and support much loved venues, with the virus, health risks, that is choice we each have to make for ourselves. The medical evidence I have read suggests a high nationwide likelihood of infection.
BUT that I am not in the most elderly age group, and have no underlying medical condition likely to be exacerbated by infection, it’s likely to milder, less serious symptoms for me. BUT that when I contract the virus, I will be infectious and a risk to others.
This puts me in a quandary, obviously if I am ill AND displaying symptoms, there is no way I’d go to a gig EVEN if AL Green were in town, I’d be too ill, and be too much of a risk to others.
BUT if I’m not displaying symptoms should I go to live music, after all, the musicians are there.
I may be virus free and no risk to others.
BUT I may be contagious but asymptomatic, display no symptoms, and able to infect others and not realise this...
Finally what if I have contracted the virus, have been ill, recovered, and am no longer contagious is it ok for me to go gigs assuming they are still even on?
I have the feeling many of us are feeling uneasy with these questions, especially as we know bands and venues are struggling now, and will do so as these virus of fear and coronavirus spread. I have no answers, just a deep well of uncertainty, but not fear.
One thing for sure is I will want to return to live music when some normality returns and whatever venues reopen, whenever that is. I also think we should support those venue that are pathfinders in the return to normality, regardless of the music played, the venues need to see their faith in live music rewarded, the bands need to see the money coming in again, and I’ll need that fix of live music.
God darn it, I’d even go to see one o’ them thare Cuuntry and Westuurn performers at the start to show solidarity with venues and performers.
(my home is a ‘Country Free Zone’) !!
Record Store Day has been at least for now postponed until June 20th...