The Music Industry, has been one of the hardest-hit sectors as a result of COVID-19. Nevertheless, has it been total doom and gloom? Well, revenues have certainly dried up, which is horrific for anybody relying on music industry revenue, but the industry’s creative side has prospered.
A recent survey by GSGM found that 70% of 100 musicians have been productive in the recent lockdowns. However, only 60% of them have managed to release new music. We asked those who have not released new music, why not, especially when new music is thriving due to an increase in streaming (more than 155m albums were bought or streamed in 2020, an increase of 8.2%, a BPI finding). Our survey, revealed that those who have not recorded and released new material were unable to record due to not being able to get together with their fellow bandmates and musicians. Also, not all members have the equipment at home required to put music down. Nevertheless, those who had music ready prior to COVID have been able to leverage the increase in streaming the most.
The lockdowns have forced musicians to think outside of the box. It also has fast-tracked the release game by some proportion. Artists have been itching to keep active, and they have been able to complete tracks which they may have struggled otherwise due to tour commitments. The lockdown has also given musicians who are continually working a chance to reflect and get some resting time. But it has gone on for too long now, and there is only so much rest one can get before it starts to be unproductive. As a result, many musicians have been struggling to find their mojo. Many have lost motivation, and mental health has taken a toll too.
Nothing will ever get away from the industry’s live side, which has taken the majority of the strain. Venues and promoters have had to close their gates. It is heartbreaking to see some of our most loved venues shutting up shop. Whether some will return is still a question which only time will answer. However, the majority have struggled to find funding. Also, a lot of the grass-root venues had been surviving on the most delicate thread for quite some before COVID-19. Therefore, the pandemic was the ultimate final nail in the coffin.
73% of the musicians we spoke to in our survey who sell merch revealed that their merchandise sales are on the up. There is an increasing demand, and many of their fans have been helping them by buying their stock. It is not a surprise either given that the majority of music lovers are at home shopping online. Therefore, if general online sales are up, then it makes sense that merch sales are up too. Nevertheless, which artists are benefiting the most from this? The big names are doing very well, but also artists from all levels are profiting too. However, only artists who have a solid fan base are seeing the right results. As a result, the 27% who are not seeing an increase in merch sales agree that they do not have a big fan base as yet.
How Much Longer Can Musicians Survive Without Live Gigs?
Adaptability has proven to be a vital ingredient to getting through uncertain times. As a result, many musicians have changed their approach, with lots more artists taking part in online festivals and private and public online shows. Nevertheless, online gigs generally do not bring revenue unless the musician is charging for their private shows. Therefore, it is not a means to an end; it is merely just a way to keep fans up to date and also a way to keep active as a musician. In terms of finances, nothing is going to replace the revenue which musicians earn from live shows.
However, as mentioned above, adapting and finding new ways to make money online is vital. Some artists are putting out tickets for future shows, but fans have to purchase these at their own risk. They may not go ahead if the lockdown carries on for a long time, although the gigs will be rescheduled most likely. However, musicians should clarify that fans can get a refund if the gig does not go ahead on the date mentioned; why? Because the new dates may not be suitable for the ticket buyers. Nevertheless, this brings a new complexity, the money earned becomes unspendable until the gig takes place just in case consumers demand their money back, although this is often the case with many big gigs.
Can The Music Industry Recover From This Pandemic?
Sadly, the damage is taking its toll already for many. Venues that have had to close may struggle to find their feet again given that they have had to give up their space and may now be concentrating on other things. Also, due to it being some time until live concerts will resume, it is doubtful that the industry will recover instantly. It will take time to get back to how it was before. However, music fans are itching to get back to gigs; therefore, once the green light arrives, it will be no surprise to witness tickets flying off the shelf.
Also, some industry areas have grown, e.g. radio listening is up, and streaming is increasing too. Therefore, this will likely continue as more music consumers are finding new ways to react to the industry noise, and due to them carrying this out for some time now, the habits will undoubtedly stick and continue going forward.
Does More Need To Be Done For The Music Industry To Keep It Going?
The music industry is a massive earner for economies all around the world. It contributes billions and neglecting it will hurt economies globally. Quite a bit of support is available for other business sectors during the pandemic. However, has enough been done to help the music and arts sector? Many will say no! Venues are struggling and have had to close. Musicians cannot rely on their usual source of income, therefore, are struggling too, luckily for those who are self-employed they may be able to keep going due to the government support. However, not every musician is self-employed; some musicians have been working regular jobs which may have been lost.
Arguably, COVID-19 has been the most challenging period in music for a long time. Sadly, it did not come with enough warning either with lockdowns arriving relatively quickly after the first case, (Many may support the claim that governments did not act fast enough, but that is a topic for another day). Therefore, the music business has learnt that adversities can happen instantly, and it is how we all react to the new challenges, which determine the result.
Nevertheless, sorrowfully, many of the companies heavily affected by the pandemic have had no way of adapting. Especially music venues, yes, many have found innovative ways to keep going by delving into other areas, but nothing is getting away from the fact they are losing massive earnings because fans are not allowed to attend their venues. However, will they bounce back? If they keep going until they get the green light, yes. However, with an end not in sight, how long can people hold onto something that does not return a sustainable income?
Support For The Music Industry
For musicians and those working in the music business, it is wise to check out the links below to determine if additional support is available during this challenging period.
Help Musicians are there to help musicians in need. They are offering Coronavirus advice and are giving out hardship funding for those who are struggling. Visit their website here.
Those classed as self-employed and in the UK, make sure to receive the self-employment support from the British government. It is easy to check eligibility by clicking here. For readers outside of the UK, it is best to check with the local authority and government to see if funding is available. We cannot comment on every country, but many countries are providing support.
Lastly, be sure to visit the Musician Union, they have grants and guidance available to help out during the pandemic. Also, they provide a lot of support to musicians outside of COVID-19, therefore it is benificial to be a member with them.
The above links are mainly for the UK Music Industry. However, Googling ‘Support for musicians during COVID-19‘ is best to carry out more research.
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Do you think that enough is happening to help the music industry? Do you have ideas on how music venues and musicians can keep going during this unprecedented time? Additionally, maybe you are a musician or music venues caught up in all of this, how have your experiences been?
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