“It’s a bizarre spot for everyone to be in”: how you can help musicians whose income is in peril thanks to coronavirus
Amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19 – and an increasing number of restrictions around large gatherings around the world – the music industry is suffering. Last week saw the cancellation of SXSW, in Austin, Texas – a devastating blow for new artists trying to make their mark in the US. Soon after came the postponement of Coachella – and today Record Store Day has also been postponed. Meanwhile, a huge number of artists are pulling imminent tour dates due to public health.
BTS, Madonna, Bombay Bicycle Club, Billie Eilish, and Tool are among the many acts who have been forced to cancel or postpone tour dates. Here’s a definitive list of the affected shows so far. Indie musicians and DIY acts are being particularly hit hard by the pandemic: many rely on touring – and merch stand takings along the way – as a major source of income. During a difficult time for music, we asked some artists how fans can help them out.
Treat yourself to some musical goodies
If fans want to help out artists affected by cancelled tour dates “they should buy merch and records directly, from artists’ websites, or sites like Bandcamp” says Brooke Bentham. The London-based musician has been forced to cancel a handful of European live dates in support of debut album ‘Everyday Nothing’. “Often, that money goes directly into the pockets of musicians.”
“The best thing is to buy directly from artists where possible,” agrees Shura. Currently based in New York, the UK artist released her second album ‘Forevher’ last August on Secretly Canadian. “If you streamed a record a ton in the last year and love it, buy a copy too,” she suggests, “and get the t-shirt!”
Indie-rock duo Diet Cig, who release their second album ‘Do You Wonder About Me?’ May 1, say their ability to tour looks uncertain.
“I think the biggest thing people can do to support us and other artists who would take a huge hit from not touring would be to buy merch and music,” the band’s Alex Luciano says. “Especially from sites like Bandcamp and official merch stores. The money goes more directly to the band, and I do think that could help so many of us stay afloat at least until we can tour again.
“Also, follow the protocols to stay safe and healthy so that we can contain this thing ASAP and less people have to get sick – meaning you get to see your favourite bands!”
Fill up your autumn diary
Snap up tickets for that gig you fancy in the autumn – now. According to Charlie Simmonds, a promoter at Pink Mist, gig bookings have taken a massive hit for the entire year. “Ticket sales this week have slowed to a halt for everything,” he says.
Fans are right to be cautious right now, “but there’s less reason to worry about a gig in six months time, in my opinion,” he says. With loads of artists rescheduling shows for later in the year, filling up your diary with their new dates – and buying tickets for gigs in general – is a great show of support. “Buying gig tickets is really helpful to the industry” he adds, “especially for shows that aren’t so soon.
“It’s been pretty tricky,” he adds. “A really bizarre spot for everyone to be in.”
Shout about your faves on social media – particularly breaking artists
If you don’t have much spare cash, “sharing is really helpful, too,” Shura points out. Get tweeting about all the super-talented musicians you’re listening to, and spread the word about all the great music they’ve released.
“Keep streaming. Also, sharing music on social media for visibility really helps us,” advises London-based musician Shaefri, who self-released her debut EP ‘Cracks’ on her own label Off the Record in 2017. She still plans on putting out her next single on March 25, but as far as the unsigned musician is concerned, putting on a launch gig is currently out of the question. “No-one is booking anything,” she says, adding that she’s currently considering other options like live-streaming.
In lieu of live shows to drum up excitement, fans sharing music widely online could massively help out new artists trying to break through.
Look out for your mates
Every artists’ personal circumstances are unique: some musicians are currently in a really precarious situation due to relying heavily on tours for income. Leeds experimental quartet Adult Jazz have begun urging supportive fans to spend their money elsewhere, where it’s more urgently needed. “Buy other musicians’ stuff” they posted on Twitter.
“All of our band members have other jobs,” the band’s Harry Burgess tells NME. “So we’ll ultimately be OK, even though it’s a scary time. It’s worth keeping an eye out for musicians posting on social media asking for help, and supporting them first.”
Sign this petition
It’s not just musicians who will be left out of pocket following festival and show cancellations – hundreds of thousands of people working in the events industry are also facing uncertain times. A petition – which has over 30,000 signatures – is calling on the UK government to provide economic assistance to businesses and staff who will be affected.
“The industry is worth more than £14 billion to the economy, with 25,000 businesses supporting over 500,000 employees—all of whom are nervous about whether their next event will go ahead or not, and how their income may be affected,” reads the petition. You can sign it here.