11 Oct 2020
by mike.lee | News
It truly is hard to overstate the size of the hole COVID-19 has left in the music industry. A pandemic-shaped nuclear bomb has detonated and countless electronic music artists, venues, and festivals have been vaporized in the blast; many more will succumb to the fallout over the coming months.
An estimated $10bn dollars of global music industry revenue will evaporate into the Coronasphere this year. Nearly 8 million leisure and hospitality jobs were lost in the US in April alone, and thousands upon thousands of artists worldwide are scratching their heads and asking: “What now?”
It’s important to remember too, that while there are a handful of private-jetster DJs who will simply be forced to briefly retire to their Scrooge-Mcduck-style money pools, the median income for a musician is $20,000-$25,000.³
There are artists at every income bracket - from those that require a second job to keep their head above water, to those who are just about getting by like the rest of us, and of course a select few who have “made it”. Like any discipline however, the vast majority will fall into the first two categories.
Fortunately for electronic music artists, they have built their careers off the back of being creative. So when a global pandemic came knocking at the door, the music industry responded with an admirable display of resilience.
The U.S., even in the most testing of times, has always found a way to party - a lesson learnt the hard way by the government during the bootlegging and speakeasy era. So it didn’t take long for some musicians and promoters to rub their heads together and come up with drive-in concerts. Pretty simple really - two things America has in abundance? Cars and land. Maceo Plex, The Beach Boys, and Snoop Dogg (as DJ Snoopadelic) are some of the artists who have gotten in on the automotive party scene so far. Unfortunately, due to the spatial requirements and high ticket prices, these kinds of shows don’t do a huge amount for your average $25k a year musician.
You’ve seen them. How could you not? Many video platform algorithms shoot them to the top of your feed at every opportunity. Unfortunately for artists, these are rarely paid gigs. Many artists have started streaming off their own back (e.g. Afters with Emerald), others have performed as part of a live streaming event. Invariably these are known as “Club Quarantine” (the queer Zoom party which Charli XCX performed at), “Club Quarantäne” a 36-hour techno bonanza which featured Ben UFO, FJAAK, and MoMa Ready, or some other tremendously imaginative hybrid.
With streams not looking likely to go anywhere anytime soon - Spotify have even teamed up with Songkick to push upcoming live-streaming events on their app.
For an expertly curated and regularly updated list of upcoming streams, we’d also recommend following Stream Informer on Instagram.
According to a U.N. report, COVID-19 has changed online shopping forever. Daily average global ecommerce sales and traffic measured 7% and 3% higher respectively in August 2020 versus 2019. That’s a lot of extra cyber-cash floating around. In a period when income from live music has dematerialized with all the grace of an excited raccoon’s cotton candy in an inch of water, cash from ecommerce is a lifeline for artists everywhere.
Bandcamp is an artist-favourite platform where you can buy music and merch directly from your faves. When coronavirus went down in March, Bandcamp’s response was to waive their revenue share for a day (now affectionately known as “Bandcamp Day”). It was so popular that they pledged to do it three more times - on the first Friday of April, May,and June. After that, they pledged to do it on the first Friday of the month until the end of the year, cementing their status as “one of the good ones”.
At the gigantic end of the spectrum, Billie Eilish recently announced a “Where Do We Go” virtual concert; a $30 ticket to the live stream also gives fan access to purchase items from an exclusive merch line. Whether or not you like the music, nobody can argue that Billie and her team seriously know how to stack the paper.
Patreon was doing pretty well before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has got the platform fully juiced and now you have to imagine the elves in the Patreon offices are working their little fingers down to the bone to keep up.
Patreon is a great platform that gives artists direct access to paying fans and in return fans get exclusive content. Tim Sweeney’s Beats In Space series makes $2500+ a month from Patreon alone, other notable Patreon-ers include M.I.A., Zola Jesus, and NYC venue Nowadays.
In-line with this newfound success, Patreon recently announced that they’ve raised $90 million in funding. Whew.
In the most recent of a series of dystopian moves to come out of the UK, sit-down raves have become hugely popular. Naturally these rank firmly between virtual concerts and ‘an actual party’, wherein attendees can drink and listen to great music, but dancing is forbidden and anyone caught dancing by the party police (floating security guards) will be forced to sit and enjoy the beats like everyone else.
On a positive note, these kinds of <300 capacity shows, which generally feature allocated seating (and strictly no mixing between tables), are an opportunity for smaller acts to take home some cash without the need to fill a stadium parking lot.
Artists like SHERELLE, Call Super, Pearson Sound, and Dan Shake, have all played socially-distanced shows to gardens of seated guests to great success, demonstrating that more than anything, artists and fans are desperate to return to performance environments anywhere that it is safe to do so.
Obviously, the creative response from artists around the world has been incredible and musicians everywhere have demonstrated why their craft is loved by so many. However, if you’re seeing live streams on your feed every minute of every day - be sure not to mistake this new-found visibility for continued financial stability. It’s tough out there for everyone at the moment, artists especially so.
With only a handful of really successful COVID-19 responses around the world (New Zealand, we see you!), live music is in serious jeopardy. The support measures across the globe have also come in all shapes and sizes. Germany is leading the way with a one billion Euro pledge to the creative sector, but artists in many countries are not so lucky.
So, if you’re fortunate enough to have some cash to spare, consider slinging it towards your favourite artist this month, especially if music has helped you navigate your way through the pandemic.