Music Politics

Pandemic Performances

The music industry was hit hard during the pandemic, especially during the lockdowns, despite being one of the largest activities that keeps us connected. In March 2020, Italians sang messages of hope from their balconies to boost morale during quarantine. Even with it being a massive element in keeping us in touch, it was one of the biggest industries badly affected by Covid, and still being troubled.

Spotify is the world’s most popular streaming subscription service with around 365 million users across 178 markets. Spotify was launched in 2008 and now offers over 70 million tracks, 2.9 million podcasts and gives the option to listen for free or you can subscribe, yet they still reported a loss of around €356 million during the lockdowns. Lockdown gave people a massive lifestyle change, with people travelling less, pubs not playing music and gyms not playing it meant their numbers went down. Spotify said: “It’s clear from our data that morning routines have changed significantly, every day now looks like the weekend.”

From left to right: George Gray, Callum Minks, Alex Plater and Amias Burrows.

But it’s not just the streaming sectors that have been affected; upcoming bands have had to work extra hard to progress over the last 18 months. Indigo Bay, an indie band from Grimsby, kept a positive outlook, even whilst in quarantine. Despite lockdown interrupting the peak of their live show career, as they began branching out into larger cities, it did bring them other opportunities. The bands bass guitarist, George Gray said: “Covid has allowed us to reach opportunities that have been huge for us. We decided to do some lockdown themed covers by request and were messaged by a recording studio that has recorded some of our favourite and most inspirational artists.” The band used their extra time to focus on writing new songs which has led to a new success in radio. Gray said: “Growth has been slow but rewarding.”

After releasing their debut professional single, they described it as a “wasted opportunity” as they couldn’t host launch parties or promotional shows. Gray said, “success and numbers are not as important to us as the people that support us.” After expressing his disappointment in not being able to connect with his fans. Indigo Bay were lucky enough to play their first gig post covid on the 23rd of July at Café Indie, in Scunthorpe. Gray said: “The first gig back was incredible. Nothing brings people together like music. After so long being separated from other people, people were clearly making up for lost time.” Minks did say that there were clear differences though, social distancing guidelines in place, some people were wearing masks and others weren’t, despite this Gray said nothing stopped them from having fun and enjoying the show like before: “It was truly a night to remember.”

From left to right: Reuben, Jack, Shoots and Jeeves.

Drips are another upcoming indie band from Leicester, who also had a hard time growing in lockdown. Lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Jack, said it’s been tough to book rehearsals with the back and forth between lockdowns, however, they have been able to write and plan more for post lockdown. “I think the worst thing was we took a break from doing shows to focus on writing before lockdown, so it prolonged doing anything in public.”

Jack also spoke about how strange it is not being able to perform: “it distorts your whole perception of where you are in the music scene, when we write or do anything, I always imagine playing it live and when you haven’t played a show in so long its weird to think of that feeling of being on stage.” Jack said that they are excited to get back into it and play their first gig back. They have a date set to play with Tin Pigeons at the O2 academy in Leicester on September 4th and talks about a show in Nottingham. Jack said: “We’ve got so many new songs that are in our set now, two of which are our next two singles which are ready to go!”

With gigs finally coming back into play, music venues are opening their doors and booking as many artists as possible to bring in money after being closed for so long. Even when they opened inside in May they were not able to reach full capacity, keeping the struggle going for longer. The Met Lounge, an alternative music venue in Peterborough, opened again in May, with socially distanced indoor shows. It was a different atmosphere, but people were happy to be out and enjoying live music again. However, with the limitations which were kept in place until mid-July, venues still weren’t bringing in the revenue to match pre-covid. Steve Jason, the owner of the Met Lounge said: “Up until the 19th July all the gigs that we did do were ‘socially distanced’ all seated shows with capacity of just 60 people as opposed to 200.”

Some festivals across the UK have started and returned to normal, yet more than 50% haven’t been able to risk returning this year. The UK government resisted to put in a cancellation insurance which would have provided a safety net to large scale events like festivals. With this not in place, it meant some festivals couldn’t risk the possibility of a last-minute cancellation due to costs. However, the ones that have gone ahead have introduced new covid safety measures to keep everyone safe. Most events have a Covid certification process which will allow you to enter, meaning they will ask for your covid status. This could be proof that you are fully vaccinated, have a negative lateral flow test or proof of full natural immunity which is based on a positive PCR test taken within 180 days of the event.

With all the struggles the different sectors of this industry have been through and continues to go through due to the pandemic, now everything is slowly returning to normal, the best thing we can do is throw our support at all parts of it.

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