Unbelievably, at the time of writing we are eleven months into this Covid-19 pandemic and our world - the music world has changed dramatically. Artists seemed to try to hide for a while, and slowly realised they they needed to keep creating if they stood any chance of survival whatsoever.
The Musicians Union in the UK did a survey which suggested 34% of musicians were ready to quit - way back in September 2020, and other surveys were much worse. There’s no denying that many will never recover but as a mixing engineer who relies upon artists making records to make a living myself - I have more faith in the resilience of music and people who make music.
People don’t become musicians because it’s easy and they don’t give up because they don’t see results immediately so I have faith that we all will, once way or another survive and evolve. It’s the same with humanity in general - we need to find ways of simulating social interactions and events we can’t hold in person to stay sane!
I thought it might be interesting to have a look at a few possibilities going forward and were we are today.
As the pandemic landed on us, we saw the livestream come into play pretty quickly, and a degree of fatigue almost equally as quickly. The battle in this space is is competition for attention, much like records have to compete with everything from games to manga series on YouTube. As it was, the livestream worked better for musicians with the least complexities - an acoustic singer songwriter is better suited to it than a full band, as is hip hop - it’s achievable. Bands? A bit harder…
The well known Tiny Desk shows are a good example of how it can be done AND work, and some took it to new levels. It takes a little bit of effort on the recording and mixing side, but isn’t unachieveable for most bands, or even better - a group of bands who could pool resources to put on events. On a bigger scale Gorillaz is hugely successful and has the resources to put on a big production worth paying good money to see. Thousands of fans paid 15BGP to watch the “Live From Kong" event, but I do understand that most of us are in far more modest circumstances.
In the old world if you're talking about low rent, you’d pay five pounds and end up in some black painted room above a pub in London (hello Barfly!) with a sticky floor and see three bands playing for an inevitably small crowd, hoping to impress some A&R scout who said they’d come down. I’m not sure we can translate that to the new world, or if anyone would pay to attend, but perhaps they would. Will there be a showcase platform? Events held by multiple artists to simulate a night out? Better organisation and production just built into venues or venues that literally ONLY do that, exist to create quick and dirty streamed events? Most likely so in the near term.
One of my friends has been doing regular live stream events and filming for YouTube in a rustic setting in his recording studio, with nice lighting and so on but that was generally acoustic based music, so there’s probably a gap in the market for being able to record and film a band in a room that has a certain aesthetic or charm to it for people to put up online.
Holograms, Video Games and VR
We probably all heard about the Tupac hologram wheeled out at Cochella and scarily it was a LONG time ago now - that was back in 2012! Nostalgia is a thing, and will always be a thing, so it's almost certain that eventually we'll see all kinds of shows from people who aren't here anymore. The mainstream show makers even saw there’s a dark side to that idea too….the Netflix series Black Mirror had an episode where Miley Cyrus was a pop star whose holographic image went on tour instead of her after she was hospitalized. The technology will evolve, it will happen and hell…even I’d pay to see Prince again.
In the opposite direction of nostalgia, 100 Gecs did a festival in Minecraft when their tour was cancelled. Love them or hate them you have to respect the idea - it was insane and brilliant. It was even streamed on Twitch as it was so full, and they took donations to support a food bank charity during the whole event. On the slicker, more corporate end of the scale Travis Scott did an event which drew 28 million players in Fortnite and sold a ton of merchandise. Somewhere between the two there are an ocean of possibilities for the creative.
There’s another area which will probably come into the fore which is VR.
Now, I don’t know anybody who’s not a total game nerd who has a VR headset, but it’s going to happen at some point, in some way. If it becomes more mainstream, you’ll see big artists being able to sell even more tickets to a show for the VR experience. An array of cameras down the front, clever use of the atmosphere and audio, and there you are in the front row without paying 200 dollars a ticket.
Imagine a gig with VR rooms for the pre-gig meet-up for fans to hang out and chill, as well as the show itself, and you start to imagine ways we can potentially enrich the experience. Or how about a meet and greet with the artists? All of these things could be possible virtually. During the pandemic, we’ve seen zoom meetings blow up, and in some ways even improve our connections with others. For a generation that doesn’t even like phones, face to face meetings even if online are here to stay. It used to be uncomfortable but now, it’s just what we do!
We’re not there yet, but we will probably explore these concepts, and I hope that it give you some ideas, and most of all hope until life returns to normal, whatever that will be.
In the meantime, we have to innovate, create and come up with whatever we can with the resources we have to keep going. Music is going nowhere, and neither are all of us who work in the industry supporting the artists, making things possible.
If you enjoyed this, please check out the many more articles for artists here on the site as they contain all kinds of information to help you. And if you do need a mixing engineer for your project, by all means reach out and talk to me about how I can help.
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