Last summer, live music reigned supreme. Gigs seemed to be in abundance; the pay was good, the complimentary dinners even better. Summer concerts and festivals were in full swing and the sweet heat was made bearable by hours of energetic singing and dancing. Personally, I have never had a more successful gig season in a nearly decade long career of performing live. To many musicians, it seemed as if we were enjoying some golden era of gigging and performing where our art was respected and in high demand.
It didn’t occur to anyone that a year later, we would be living characters in a high school history book.
By now, we all know of COVID-19. A novel coronavirus that started making headlines in late 2019. By March of 2020 it had disrupted the lives of practically everyone in the world. It’s been nearly three months since words like lockdown and quarantine became a part of our daily vernacular and patting down your pockets for your wallet, keys, and face mask became normal. This “new normal” has also included a big change for gigging musicians.
Suddenly, there are no more in-person shows. No more open mics, no more bar or cafe performances. No more stadium shows for the bigger stars, no more festivals even. It’s an uncertain and scary time, however, musicians have always been well suited for change in an ever-evolving industry.
I took the time to speak with four different musicians, both local and from out of state, to get an idea of how musicians in this industry are adapting to the change.
Olivia Faith is an upcoming senior in high school living in Cherry Hill, NJ.
“We’ve been staying home for the most part because of the lockdown. It’s been tough not having my vocal lessons or getting to visit my grandma, but I’m enjoying being at home (and not in school!). Because of the quarantine, I’ve had a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have had before - like the Music Barn’s live!”.
Skylar Springer, from Brick, NJ, is a Music Education major at Rowan University.
“As far as COVID-19 goes, I am staying inside and have been unable to work. My creative process has not changed much, and I’m still writing music. I hope that live in-person music will make a comeback soon (I have tickets to see Harry Styles!)”.
Cole Brightbill is from Newton, MA, is a student at Drexel University, and the lead singer, guitarist, and writer for Brightbill
“I enjoy writing music, producing with other people, and mixing tracks. COVID-19 restrictions have left me emotionally “meh” like everyone else, it’s driven a wrench into my songwriting process but I’m trying to be patient. I’ve managed to get a job producing a medical device that might contribute to COVID antibody testing, and have started saving up money to fund the band with it. Within the band, we’ve transitioned to remote sessions using Zoom. Our gigs have been canceled but we’ve been trying to make up for it by doing at home recording”.
Rebecca Shepro is a graduate of DePaul University in Chicago with a Bachelor’s in Music, and a current law school student
“I’m a musician and have 100s of friends who are musicians in Chicago so I can try to speak to our collective experiences. (We are performing) lots of Zoom concerts just to feel like a musician again! Some of my friends have branched out to other areas of art (visual, crafts, etc.) to make money and others have been giving Skype lessons for money or using Patreon to make money from virtual “gigs”. Many have had time to finish albums and other compositions. Many of my friends have applied for the city and state’s artist relief funds but have only gotten enough to cover less than one month’s rent”.
While attitudes seem positive, it’s clear that the future of music is uncertain.
Nevertheless, musicians have persisted! What is evident from the interviews conducted is that while in-person performances may not be happening as of right now, artists are preparing themselves for the moment we can all gather outside together at The Music Barn and jump and shout until our voices become dry.
Artists Olivia Faith, Skylar Springer, and Cole Brightbill have all performed for the Music Barn’s Live Virtual Concert Series which has been a great success for everyone involved. Something like a virtual concert holds us together in a very confusing time and allows us all to feel “normal”, even during historically significant events. So, until we can all go back to our (new) normal lives, be sure to join in on one of our live concerts to see an artist you love, or more importantly to discover a new favorite!
In-person events are coming back soon, however, right now we need to keep making music (virtually) together. Quarantines, masks, and more are in place to stop the spread of COVID-19: but COVID-19 cannot stop the spread of live music.
Our industry is changing and evolving, but far from dying.