There are no guidebooks musicians can look to for learning how to cope with COVID-19. If you’re reading this, it’s possible or maybe even likely that the pandemic has completely upended your plans, whether you were set to tour this summer, release a new album, or hole up somewhere with your bandmates to work on new material. If live performances are a part of the way you earn money, you’re being especially impacted by this crisis.
While it’s natural us to want things to return to normal, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that’s not going to happen. No one can predict the future. Yet, the world––and music along with it––has already permanently changed as a result of COVID-19. Instead of longing to create and perform in a pre-2020 world, we have to accept the harsh reality of our circumstances. Luckily, doing so doesn’t mean giving up on creating and sharing music.
Music’s new normal
Things are constantly changing across the world because of ever-evolving social distancing measures. It’s impossible to predict exactly what the world will look like over the next year. However, it is safe to say that no matter what, live music will be on hold over the short-term. This is a gut-punch that we shouldn’t glide over, by the way. Countless musicians, venue owners, promoters, live sound engineers, bartenders, and other hardworking people are out of work right now.
There’s no getting around the fact that these circumstances limit musicians and fans alike. But this is the reality we’re stuck with for the time being. Even if every government simultaneously lifts their social distancing measures, it’ll take time for audiences to feel comfortable at venues. We will get to a point where musicians play on stages in front of carefree fans again. We just don’t know when.
What we can do right now
If you feel powerless right now, you’re not alone. This crisis highlights how human and essential live music is for people. Not being able to perform in front of audiences can make musicians feel lost and without a sense of purpose. If we want to weather this storm through creative action and productivity, we have to focus on what we can do instead of what we can’t.
We can live-stream performances to entertain and brighten the spirits of countless homebound music fans. We can perform at home for our world-weary family members and roommates. And we can write, record, and share music in the places we live. Music is a device that brings human beings together. We may not be able to make those connections in the same room for a while. However, we can still bring humanity and comfort to people by being active during this time. And even if you create and explore music without sharing it, you’ll still be bettering yourself through creativity.
Planning around uncertainty
Getting out there and playing at venues might be a critical part of your music career plans for the next year. But there’s a good chance that won’t happen in the short-term. Local restrictions where you live or plan to tour might keep music venues shut down for months. Then there’s the question of whether fans will risk coming to your shows even if they were allowed to. Since there’s no easy fix for this, musicians have to be adaptable when doing things like promoting new music. It’s not what we want to hear right now, but it’s the reality we have to face.
However, with some creativity, you can meet the moment with the tools you have available by presenting your music in a special way. Nothing will replace live concerts, but that doesn’t mean musicians can’t make a lasting impact through other ways during the crisis. Finding ways to connect with fans is important now because people are searching for comfort, distraction, and inspiration through music more than usual. Whether it’s live-streaming performances or writing music based on topical themes, there are plenty of opportunities to reach audiences right now. They might not be in the ways you’d hoped or planned for, but they’re important.
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.