I want to say this right off the bat. Music can’t fix what the world is going through right now. It doesn’t have the power to cure COVID-19, bring someone’s job back, or heal the sick. But what it can do is comfort and relate to people. That’s no easy task in a world chock full of despair and anxiety everywhere you look. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance your music plans have dramatically shifted over the past couple of months. Mine certainly have. I don’t know what the future holds for my music career, especially when it comes to performing live. However, I do know how crucial music is in the lives of countless people right now. That gives me a lot of hope and purpose.
It’s becoming obvious that this crisis has already transformed the world beyond recognition, and there’s no sign of things slowing down or becoming easier anytime soon. But when the dust settles and we adjust to a new normal, I believe that music will have been an integral part of helping everyday people cope through what they’ve been through.
All musicians have value during normal times, but they’re especially important right now in the age of COVID-19. Whether you’re a bonafide pop star or have just begun recording songs from your bedroom, the world is better off due to the fact that you make music. There are obvious reasons for this, such as the output musicians create that the world can then enjoy. But a subtler factor you should think about right now is that making music most likely makes you feel happy, creatively challenged, and sane. When musicians do what they love, even when it’s hard to, they’re better off. You don’t need to rack up millions of streams or followers to make a difference right now as a musician. Simply continuing to pursue what you love doing can help center you during challenging times.
And then, of course, there’s the music you create. Right now is an ideal time to take stock of what’s most important in our lives and our music careers. It’s easy for many of us to get caught up in an endless quest to prove we’re worthwhile as musicians by being conventionally and visibly successful, but the true question we should be asking ourselves is whether our music really means something to our fans. If your music makes just one person’s life a little better right now, that’s a victory to be proud of. You don’t need to be famous, critically acclaimed, or commercially successful as a musician to improve listeners’ lives. If you’ve created work that even just a few people are listening to right now, you can feel comforted knowing your music is helping soundtrack lives during a hard time.
Doing what we can
The world desperately needs musicians right now, but music-makers aren’t able to work like they’re used to. Many are innovating by bringing their performances online. Yet, livestreaming shows aren’t possible or easy for every musician to pull off. It’s natural and completely expected to be creatively frustrated during this time. The important thing to focus on are the things that are in our control. If you’re able to livestream performances and think your fans would enjoy it, it’s worth your time to learn how. If writing and recording feel like a good way to give something to your audience, then pursue that creative conviction! There’s much we can’t do during COVID-19 as musicians, but we still have options for creating and relating. It’s time to focus on making the most of the resources and opportunities we still have.
There’s no getting around the fact that musicians are being profoundly impacted by this crisis, especially for those who make a living through touring. But a silver lining could be that audiences will come to appreciate what music-makers do like never before. Getting up on stage, learning an instrument, writing music––these things don’t happen without work and bravery. While millions are stuck at home, many will try learning music for the first time and learn this fact for themselves.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.