As soon as lockdowns forced the mass cancelation of live events in the spring of 2020, it was clear that the music industry was going to be severely impacted. While solo artists and producers have taken huge hits, bands and other collaborative music projects have been uniquely impacted. While technology has undoubtedly helped musicians get through this last year, it’s also shown bands its limitations. Virtual concerts have been a godsend, but they’re nothing like real shows. The same goes for digital band rehearsals.
The pandemic has inspired creativity and resourcefulness for some, but inaction for others
Every band has weathered this crisis differently. On its surface, a year of limited social interactions seems like it might serve as a great creative opportunity for bands. While this is true for some, it’s definitely not the case for all. Between the challenges of collaborating remotely and the disorientation of having their plans suddenly change, many bands haven’t been able to be creatively productive over the last year. In response to endlessly complex and overwhelming circumstances, some bands have gone on hiatus or find themselves unable to create despite their best efforts. Others have displayed resilience and a willingness to pivot to making the most out of their unique situations by making lots of music. Some turned to livestreams to generate income, and many threw themselves deeper into creativity and collaborated through technology.
It’s made hard conversations impossible not to have
Whether it’s arguments about money or big creative differences, some bands have had to face their most serious challenges head-on during the pandemic. While the circumstances are anything but ideal, getting things out in the open has probably been a good thing for some projects. We’ve all had more than a year spent at home with more time on our hands than most of us know what to do with. This extra time has made tough conversations hard or impossible to avoid. Some projects will come out of this stronger and with a renewed focus on their goals. Others will absolutely break up; not because of the pandemic necessarily, but because of countless reasons that were finally addressed during this strange time.
Crucial revenue streams for touring bands have been put on pause
For bands who earn a living through touring, the pandemic has been an abysmal experience. This is a situation in which hard-working bands saw their livelihoods dry up overnight. Sure, livestreams have helped, but it’s only a drop in the bucket. We’re just starting to recognize the impact this has had on working musicians and their families. On top of this trauma, the world expects bands to process their pain through their art, but if you’re a serious musician, you know it often doesn’t work like this. Since every musician is unique, every band is its own universe and works through hard times in different ways.
However, there are some positives to be found in this situation. Musicians are seeing more of their families and are often creating more music at home. Touring is thought to pose serious challenges for musicians who struggle with mental health issues. A year at home isn’t ideal for myriad reasons, but it’s safe to assume many bands have benefited from it.
Bands have explored new creative and professional directions during this strange year
For the bands who were able to pivot to doing nothing but writing music over the past year, new exciting creative paths have been forged, whether through exploring new ways of making music or working with different collaborators. Some bands took the lockdown as an opportunity to write multiple albums worth of new and different material, something they couldn’t have done if they’d spent the last year on the road. Musicians are obviously acutely tuned into these seismic creative shifts, but audiences won’t hear and feel it all at once. The music made during the pandemic is just now starting to be released in many cases.
The pandemic has been a dramatic make or break situation for bands. It’s shown some that their partnerships aren’t rewarding or sustainable, but it’s shown others that they can get through nearly anything together. Some bands have leaned on their creativity and friendships to get through this time, while others have taken a break from music completely to cope. But while every band has responded differently, all eagerly await the return of live music.
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.