A taste of the effect Covid-19 has had on the music industry
Editor’s Note: I want to preface this post with the fact that I initially started thinking about this piece a week or so into quarantine, when it seemed like maybe it was only going to be a month or so. I realized in the early weeks that in the current situation, we’re all handling it differently. I know I could feel fantastic one day then spend the next day purely on Netflix and I’m sure I’m not alone. We all know that this is something that has gotten to numbers which we could never have thought of, and I know that there are some serious long time effects on the music scene. Below the piece, I’ve included links to relief efforts, in particular some Boston GoFundMe links for our favorite venues and the staff that make those venues so amazing. I’m also super grateful to everyone that contributed to this article and we’re Boston, we’re resilient. We will get through this. I know many more are suffering in this much more then we are but I thought it would be a good idea to reach out to a variety of people in different aspects of the industry!
Daniel Carswell, a member of long time Boston based band Rebuilder, but also booker for the locally loved Charlie’s Kitchen and Hong Kong Harvard Square, in regards to the auto-response he put on all of his show advance emails when the Governor mandated the state closure of gatherings over ten, wrote me, “ ‘Everything is cancelled. I’m sorry. Please wash your hands. I’m here for everything and anything always.’ No one pushed back. What’s that hands up emoji? Felt like maybe that’s what every message should have been”. Joshua Moore and the rest of his bandmates in We Came As Romans showed up to the Palladium in Worcester, MA, ready to start setting up for the show that night and were forced to make the decision to postpone their tour. Something they had been talking about for a few days before, “But when we were in Canada, just a few days before we had to postpone, we started to realize that it was definitely going to affect us in some way. It’s a huge bummer the tour was going so well, the best headliner we’ve ever done in our fifteen years as a band”.
We’re about a month and a half into this quarantine, give or take, depending on where you are in the world but I remember the day fluidly when we pretty much saw any hopes of tours continuing, prepping to start a tour, just be destroyed. There were more IG Lives that I could ever imagine, was honestly making a schedule sometimes, but it’s definitely slowed down and I would hundred percent expect it to. We’re all handling this in different ways, but I think we’re all starting to fall into our patterns and approaches. So I felt it could be helpful to reach out to members of both the local and national touring, booking community to try and give a small look into the effect that Covid-19 is having on the music industry that we don’t always get to see.
But something I think is really important and has been a huge focus of any content I’ve been posting is that art, music is an armor. While a lot of bands have postponed new albums and that’s totally understandable, I’ve made it a point to continue to write about the new albums coming out, still do interviews and that’s on the journalist’s side. For artists, they’re all taking their own approach to it. I spoke to Kris Allen, of American Idol fame, but has also been a career musician for over ten years and was someone that was really active in trying to provide content by doing live streams early on. Allen said, “Art is a service to others. I felt the need to ramp up things on social media because I wasn’t able to provide that service for people in the form of shows. More importantly, we all understand the craziness of these times and a little soft acoustic soul music might just be what makes us feel more sure.” Allen was poised to go on his first run of Europe with fellow American Idol alum David Cook which is now postponed to the fall and a handful of May shows which have been canceled for obvious reasons.
And then while some artists have been really active on social media and doing so, others are also pursuing music on their own schedule, their own speed. Moore of We Came As Romans talked about how the second he got home from their tour that was halted just a few days in, he jumped in the studio but obviously things changed when Michigan, another hotspot in the US, issued their shelter in place order. “Now I’m just writing in my bedroom and kind of stockpiling ideas and songs until I can get back into the studio with Nick Sampson and bring them to life,” said Moore.
When speaking to Allen too, he’s balancing fatherhood and now of course with schools being canceled and parents taking on the homeschooling role, sometimes creating has to take a backseat to parenting. “Being creative right now has been hard for sure. I usually have a lot of time to write during the days to do that. Write. Repeat. Practice. But right now, I have three kids at home all day. I love my children but getting things done like this while they are around is pretty much impossible. There’s always when they go to bed but now I want to at the same time at the moment. Teachers deserve 10 times what they are making!”
While it will be a while until touring is able to happen again, it’s something on everyone’s minds too. The artists as well as obviously those behind the scenes. While rescheduled tours are currently planned as early as July and tours planned for June beginning to be postponed, it’s still very unclear if only small shows will be allowed to happen, if it will be done in phases but currently everything in Boston larger than 500 capacity shows are pretty much all postponed or canceled with a lot of venues currently postponing everything up until June 1st. I talked about it a little bit before but a lot of bands were very early on in their tours or about to start one and there are so many elements behind rebooking tours that we don’t always think about. I spoke to a long time former Boston guy, Brian Marquis, who now works as the tour manager for one of the biggest artists in the world unquestionably, Billie Eilish, who was only three dates into her long anticipated sold out arena tour. But Marquis has been on the other side too, he toured with his band Therefore I Am relentlessly in their time, ran the Acoustic Basement tour on Warped Tour for many summers, and has grown up in a musical family with his younger brother having to reschedule his upcoming tour as well. He’s seen it all.
“As soon as we saw SXSW and Coachella cancel, we knew this was something we would have to contend with at some point and began planning for the worst case scenarios and cancellations/postponement. We ended the tour after just three shows when all the state Government’s made the call to curtail all gatherings of more than ten”. He also gave some insight into how he and his team have been taking care of each other as best they can in this time, “We’re making sure all our crew know what’s going on internally with pay and unemployment and helping them locate and apply for other assistance. We keep everyone updated on any progress or new programs to help such as LiveNation’s CrewNation (you can find more information here on how you can help) supporting crews around the world. We also check in on each other and share our weird lives at home. Lots of Netflix suggestions and recipes, things to pass the time.”
Music is a safe place, it’s a community, especially in Boston, it’s something I’m so proud of. I’ve even called certain shows therapeutic in how many people have called Boston their home for the last ten years while they could have easily moved on to other cities but there is something we all love about this city so much. We’re resilient but in the meantime, maybe this is an opportunity to really reset and that’s also something I asked of the people I spoke to. On that more local level, Carswell is an essential part and leader of this DIY and local greater Boston music scene, and his response was something that is ringing so true for me and many others I’m sure. He responded, “It may seem kind of wild but I’m trying to recharge a bit. Granted, it was a state ordered recharge. But you have to take the positive route when you can. Booking, promoting, then running the shows again and again burns people out. This has been a chance to sort of rekindle why we got into this of sorts?”
Marquis’s response was similar in the sense that we know the road will still be here when you’re able to go on it, to take it easy on yourself. “Just remember the root of why you got into music in the first place and it’ll usually bring you to a place where it’s just you and your instrument playing along to favourite records and know that it’s always available to you even if you’re stuck at home and not on the road. The road will wait, take care of yourself and go easy on yourself.”
But what will the rescheduling of tons of tours mean for the fall, a time period that is already normally rocked by so many tours that I’m sure are yet to be announced even. With most rescheduled tours currently booked for August onwards, it’s going to potentially make for some wild time. Or what if certain size shows aren’t allowed to happen? We’ve already seen it where support bands can’t do the rescheduled run or some huge tours like Bayside’s 20th anniversary, they had to straight cancel. Moore and the rest of his bandmates in WCAR were graduating their first album, “To Plant A Seed”, the debut album, featuring their late beloved clean singer Kyle Pavone with insane support from The Devil Wears Prada, Gideon and Dayseeker. Moore said, “Part of the reason the tour was doing so well is because of TDWP, Gideon and Dayseeker. I”m sure that once people are allowed to attend concerts with no fear of contracting a deadly virus, everyone is going to want to be back out there enjoying life in the way that they used to”.
On a more local level, where shows may be able to happen earlier, or bands may start doing smaller regional tours, who knows what’s going to happen. We can’t predict anything yet. The local scene in Boston is one that hustles hard to both play and work on their craft but a lot of musicians as well as their supporters are also servers, bartenders, have a day job, and like Carswell says, that’s a large majority of the people who support our local scene too and currently are also no fault of their own unemployed. On this matter, Carswell said, “It’s a coin flip to me. On one side, I have to stay hopeful that the first string of DIY shows will be packed and positive. The type of shows you dream of playing you know? On the other side of the coin live music will be like every other slice of the community pie: we all need time to recover. A lot of the community that supports the Monday night show (at Charlie’s) is currently out of work. Once the ban is lifted we are all putting our head down and going to work to get our head above water”.
For now, let’s look to the future, take care of ourselves the best we can. I know money is tight for a lot of us but it’s tight for a lot of the people that are normally serving us up beers, smiles and a lot of rock & roll. Below you can find links to some fundraisers for some of my favorite places: