We’re creating music in one of the most uniquely challenging moments in modern history. Something as simple and carefree as getting up on stage in front of a crowd of people in an indoor space is now burdened with danger and uncertainty due to a pandemic that has no end in sight. A fascinating and endlessly frustrating problem is that as the crisis drags on, audiences need music more and more when it’s often difficult or even impossible for musicians to deliver it to them. But between a world connected by the internet like never before and the timeless innovative and tenacious spirit of songwriters and performers, music is still enriching lives during the pandemic in a huge way.
Since returning to the pre-covid world we lost in early 2020 isn’t possible, we have to adjust to the strange and challenging one we’re living in. The bad news? Well, you already know the bad news––massive swaths of the music industry out of work, after almost a year, conventional in-person shows still aren’t safe or legal in many parts of the world, and the personal toll Covid is taking on professional music-makers, a group already prone to financial uncertainty and mental health issues, etc. The good news is that we’re uniquely poised to interpret the moment through our art and bring it to people when they might need it the most. If you’re looking for ways to adjust to the challenges we’re currently facing as musicians working through the Covid-19 crisis, consider these tips:
Create for this unique moment in mind, not in the past
A debate people working in every creative field are having right now is how much, if it all, to let the current realities and challenges inform their work. Ignoring Covid altogether seems ingenious and unrelatable, but reflecting the misery so many are feeling now right back at them doesn’t seem much better. Music-makers have to mine for inspiration wherever they can find it, and, like it or not, the crisis the entire world is facing is filled with urgent meaning and fuel for music. However, this doesn’t mean you need to be writing albums about the literal events that are happening around you. One of the most important tasks for creatives is to interpret reality in a way that helps it become more bearable and relatable for others. Instead of reaching back into your past or papering over how you feel about the present, focus your creativity on digging deep within yourself to get in touch with your perspective on current events, fears, hopes, and everything else you’re experiencing.
Pursue digital performance opportunities and safe live show formats whenever possible
Live-streams will never be a complete substitute for normal shows. But that doesn’t mean they’re not incredibly valuable for fans. Digital performances bring some huge advantages, like boundless reach and the chance to stay connected for fans and earn money without touring. Adjusting to the post-Covid-19 music climate means pursuing digital shows as often as you can and acclimating to new show formats you might not be used to. With so many listeners getting used to tuning into these events, they’re likely to remain popular long after the pandemic winds down.
Creative musicians and venues are dreaming up more and more safe performance opportunities as the crisis continues to ravage the music industry. With so much less live music available, fans are waking up to just how important it is in their lives, which means audiences are incredibly hungry for shows right now. Outdoor shows, limited capacity and socially distanced venue concerts, drive-in performances, and even bands playing on the back of flatbed trailers that roll through neighborhoods are a few of the many examples of how musicians are bringing music to audiences during the crisis. When possible, consider applying your own ingenuity to the issue by bringing your music to live audiences in safe and creative ways.
Redouble your focus on relating
Your audience needs vivid, gut-punching, true art to rely on right now, possibly more than at any other point in their lives. You’re in a unique position to give it to them by creating relatable, human work. This doesn’t mean your music needs to be deep or dark, necessarily, but that it clearly speaks to human beings where they’re at in their lives right now. It’s not going to be easy, but if you’re a serious musician, you’re probably already used to seemingly insurmountable challenges.
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.