Interview: How is The Coronavirus Outbreak Affecting Bands?

With the government’s advice that everyone should avoid social gatherings we’ve seen huge numbers of gigs, tours and festivals that had been planned for the coming weeks and months cancelled and rightly so, but bands rely on these shows for their income and many have ploughed hundred or thousands of pounds into tours that will no longer take place, and in many cases face uncertainty over whether those costs will be refunded.  We contacted The Musicians’ Union to find out how they are advising artists to help them through this difficult period and spoke with some of the bands who have been impacted by the ongoing outbreak.

Musicians-Union

The Musicians’ Union emphasised the importance of following the government’s advice, and is providing specific advice for musicians on their website, which is being updated regularly.  They are also providing regular email updates and are conducting a survey of musicians that you can complete here.

In their statement responding to our enquiry, the Union welcomed the government’s announcement of rate relief and financial support for independent venues, calling them “A ray of hope,” but the outlook for bands looking to recover lost income was less clear “If their employer or engager is adequately insured, there is a much greater chance of their receiving payment should work be cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.”  They also suggested that musicians may be able to access statutory sick pay or other benefits, and recommended following the Department for Work & Pensions’ guidelines on this matter.

bandcamp

Bandcamp, which is used by many independent artists and labels as a platform for selling merchandise and both physical and digital releases announced that they would be waiving all fees on purchases made on Friday 20th March to help bands who have lost revenue due to the virus.  Search out your favourite bands here to stock up on new music and read below to find out how independent artists have been affected and how music fans can support their favourite bands during the outbreak.
(NB due to the fast-moving nature of the current news agenda, some of these interviews took place before the latest advice was issued and events mentioned in bands’ reponses may have since been cancelled)

Oh Gunquit (16)
Photo by Keira Anee

Oh! Gunquit

How have you been affected by the virus and the restrictions that have been put in place to contain it?

We’ve had gigs and events cancelled in Italy, London, and are expecting Spanish festivals and tours to go soon & the others that we’ve spent months organising for 2020 including Sziget Budapest & sadly Sjock in Belgium (which we were lined up to support our loves The B-52’s) …

We did manage to record a new album just in time but who knows when we’ll actually get to play it to anyone in a live setting. Also on a personal level like everyone else, nobody knows how things are gonna turn out & we’re all worried about the health physically & mentally of our families, neighbours & friends across the world.

Has there been any support available to bands to help with the impact of these changes?

Not that I know of. Everything’s so confused & messed up right now not sure what can be done at the moment.

Have you been doing anything to keep in touch with fans that haven’t been able to attend live shows?

Not currently but think we’ll do some home live things for fun & to not totally lose our minds.

What can music fans do to support their favourite artists at this time?

Make some videos dancing at home to their favourite tracks, do impressions of their chosen band member, send it to the band & for the venues / events / promoters, maybe don’t worry too much about getting a refund on a cancelled show as that will plunge a struggling industry further in crisis. Could see it as a donation to keep the DIY scene going.

Life’s never gonna be the same & maybe even a few things will change for the better but regardless you’ll never stop music lovers doing what they love…Music is Life.

All The Best, Take Care Out There, & Stay Greasy!!

scrounge

Scrounge

 

How have you been affected by the virus and the restrictions that have been put in place to contain it?

All the predictable stuff really – gigs cancelled, rehearsals stripped back, the whole music industry turned upside down. We also both work full time, Lucy as a music teacher and Luke at a magazine, each professions that have been completely thrown by recent events. Although obviously schools won’t just stop existing, even if they shut for a while, the changes to the nature of the work and the health implications are severe; whether much of the independent media and grassroots culture will be able to endure this crisis is another question entirely.

Has there been any support available to bands to help with the impact of these changes?

Not as it stands, at least in terms of large scale stuff from the government or major institutions. Ultimately, it’s the loss of the industry as a whole that’s a massive worry. One great thing that has been done is Bandcamp’s temporary waiver of their cut of music purchased via their platform – more on that here. Bandcamp is, of course, one of the best organisations in music – enormous respect for what they do.

Have you been doing anything to keep in touch with fans that haven’t been able to attend live shows?

Most people will be aware of the situation, but we’ll definitely be communicating and signposting the best ways to support each other and the scene as a whole.

What can music fans do to support their favourite artists at this time?

Buying stuff directly from us is great, but it’s probably worth thinking carefully about that. If you’re in a financial fix yourself, prioritise how you spend. Just as if not more important than propping up bands is doing all we can to help the entirety of independent culture get through this – donate to fundraisers for local venues and record shops, offer to help with community initiatives, be available to talk to people when they’re freaking out, get a new subscription to an independent podcast, magazine or whatever outlet musicians find when they’re deprived of the ability to gig. Make loads of noise, champion the art you love, because we’ll really fucking miss it if it doesn’t survive the coming months.

We’ll only get through this collectively. Join a mutual aid group, join a union, look after your mates. Love and solidarity. x

deux furieuses

Photo by Dan Donovan

Deux Furieuses

How have you been affected by the virus and the restrictions that have been put in place to contain it?

We are self employed and will lose the gig fees and merch sales from gigs that are cancelled. We have rent to pay so this will be difficult. We have stopped our two loud rehearsals a week at our London rehearsal studio which was the main way we were in touch and where we enjoyed working together on new songs with our full live set up of drums and Marshall stack. We have both stopped using public transport and are now in our homes working out how to best proceed.

Our upcoming Summer gigs and festivals are not cancelled so far but we will not be surprised when they are. We have an unannounced European festival performance in May which we were thrilled about and will be gutted when this is cancelled. We have been looking out for our parents and making sure they stay safe and understand the situation. Ros’s family is in Scotland and this does feel far away right now.

Has there been any support available to bands to help with the impact of these changes?

Not that we are aware of. Emails are coming through relating to services that may be useful in terms of contacting fans and selling merch in order to keep income streams going through what may be a long haul. We are looking at how best to live stream performances and maybe use a virtual tip jar or tickets. Ros has a neighbour who lives above her flat who complains of noise so this is an issue for us but we will work it out.

Have you been doing anything to keep in touch with fans that haven’t been able to attend live shows?

We have not yet had a gig cancelled. We have been on our social networks but are going to get in touch via our newsletter soon letting people know what gigs are going ahead and what our plans are to live stream. We will try to help our fans who are ill or isolating.

What can music fans do to support their favourite artists at this time?

Buying music/merch by your fave bands would help. We are looking at new merch ideas now. Our latest album My War is Your War and our band t-shirts are available from our bandcamp and this money directly into our bank account will help Deux Furieuses navigate this new future.

https://deuxfurieuses.bandcamp.com/album/my-war-is-your-war

If there’s anything else that you’d like to say about the outbreak and it’s impact on the DIY music scene, add it here:

The response to suppress the virus has been too slow and the lack of intensive care beds and inability to test sufficiently due to lack of equipment is shocking. This is what happens when we ignore warnings. We do need to keep questioning the Government decisions and modelling and hold them to account with public pressure. They seem to be protecting insurance companies rather than venues which will have to close. We would like to see a rent freeze for the duration that we will be unable to play live due to Government advice on mass gatherings. The idea to invest in people by paying all citizens a living wage for a period of time is also a good idea.

The DIY music scene has to make the best of it. We will adapt as we are all creative people doing it for the love and for the art as well as for the money. People will need music and creativity and connections more than ever.

Salad at Islington Assembly
Photograph by Rupert Hitchcox

Charley Stone – Salad

How have you been affected by the virus and the restrictions that have been put in place to contain it?

We had a tour booked for the spring, all dates of which have now had to be postponed until later in the year. We’d printed up t-shirts to sell at the gigs. Also for various reasons associated with the virus it’s unlikely we’ll be able to rehearse together any time soon, so I expect there will be a lot more of exchanging ideas online rather than bashing out new songs in a rehearsal studio.

Has there been any support available to bands to help with the impact of these changes?

Not really! Venues and promoters have been extremely understanding as we’re all in the same boat, but I’m not aware of any practical help we could get.

Have you been doing anything to keep in touch with fans that haven’t been able to attend live shows?

We made an announcement across social media about the cancelled gigs, and coincidentally we’ve been working on a new website and mailing list, so we’ll be encouraging people to sign up to that and we’ll keep them informed as to what we’re doing. We were already planning to do an in-depth “behind the songs” series about our latest album The Salad Way so that will start soon and we’ll be letting fans know how to access that shortly.

What can music fans do to support their favourite artists at this time?

At the moment it’s really tough, a lot of us have lost money and are facing loss of income and work and will really struggle. But firstly I want to acknowledge that a lot of fans are themselves in financial difficulties at the moment – many are self-employed or on zero hours contracts and a lot work within the entertainment and hospitality industries and may be without work for the foreseeable future. If you’re worried about money, please don’t feel guilty about for instance claiming refunds for any gigs you now can’t attend!

For those with a steady income, especially those who might now find themselves with smaller outlays due to staying home a lot more, then deferring a refund and just waiting for the rescheduled tour dates to be announced will be massively helpful to bands, promoters and venues. Also now is a really great time to buy music and merch, directly from the artists if possible. Maybe with less to do in the evenings the arrival of fun stuff in the post can be something else to look forward to?

And also, as always, sharing your favourite artists and songs on social media, adding songs to Spotify playlists etc (and feel free to play them over and over on there even if you have the CD!), generally telling people when you find something you love, it all helps. Also if you’re stuck at home and looking for things to do, I totally encourage making your own videos for your favourite songs.

I think as the weeks and months go by it’s going to be transformative, it’s going to change the way we experience and share music and the way bands get together and collaborate. We’ll probably see whole new scenes and styles emerging from it. Also, although personally I’ve never really enjoyed online/streamed “gigs” (I don’t really see how it’s a gig without an audience, because the audience is a key part of the whole experience), I think we’re gonna see a lot more of that in the coming months and we’ll probably see people getting a lot more creative with that format.

You can order The Salad Way through the band’s official webstore.  Other releases and merch are available via Bandcamp.

Piney Gir Sebright Arms (4) (Medium)
Photo by Paul Maps

Piney Gir

How have you been affected by the virus and the restrictions that have been put in place to contain it?

A lot has been cancelled!  My tour with Salad was cancelled, my headline show in Oxford last week was cancelled, my trip to LA to record a new EP = cancelled, some of my spring gigs are being cancelled as we speak, festivals are starting to get cancelled.  So many logistics were put in place, logistics that cost time, mental energy as well as money, not to mention the merch I am not going to sell at the gigs I was meant to play, the box office receipts, the performing rights royalties – this is going to affect me personally, but also so many indie bands are going through the same exact scenario, dealing with cancelled gigs, tours and sessions.  It’s difficult shifting plans, especially when they involve so many people, the band, the crew, the promoter, the venue, the press, the radio, it’s all being hit hard.  Every facet of the industry is being challenged right now.  I’m at grassroots level, but there are bigger bands, bigger tours, bigger festivals, all being cancelled.  I’m concerned about the long term ripple effect this is going to have not just for indie musicians like me but for the greater music industry as a whole.  We’re already struggling as an industry with the changes that have developed over the last 10 years, so I don’t know how deeply this is going to impact on our business as a whole, but it doesn’t feel very hopeful right now.

Has there been any support available to bands to help with the impact of these changes?

Bandcamp have waived all their admin fees, which is a great help at the moment.  But there hasn’t been any wider help available, and it’s hard for some people to keep a level head out there with all that’s going on.  It would be nice to get more support as musicians, but I guess everyone is going through this virus scenario that is like something from a sci-fi film, so we each need to navigate our own path to stay safe, and healthy & mentally sound.  I think the best way to do that is through friendship, camaraderie and helping others, but feels tricky knowing how to do that at a safe distance, sometimes it’s just checking in with a friend who you know might be alone, or going through something difficult, even just sending them a text or silly youtube clip to remember there’s fun still to be had and for them to know you are thinking about them!  It’s just weird times, but big up Bandcamp for actually doing something about it.

Have you been doing anything to keep in touch with fans that haven’t been able to attend live shows?

I have had some really lovely messages and emails from fans who are gutted the gigs were cancelled and I think this is as hard on them as it is on us… people are devoted to their scene and going to gigs is a beautiful way to connect with like minded people.  A really good gig can be like a religious experience, but sometimes it’s just a good excuse to go out, hang out with chums and have a great night, it can be a little vacation from reality.  Without this outlet, gig goers feel cut off.  So I urge gig goers to reach out to the bands they like whose gigs were cancelled, it goes both ways.  We can build each other up.

What can music fans do to support their favourite artists at this time?

Buying merch is a great help!  FYI it takes 2,000 streams on Spotify to equal the money you would spend on one CD that you buy direct from the artist either at shows or from their artist web site or Bandcamp account.  So already the industry was in crisis for indie artists like myself because with streaming platforms the numbers don’t add up.  But when you factor in the money-down-the-drain from cancelled tours and the merch-not-sold because the gigs didn’t happen, the best thing you can do is buy their wares.  Don’t think of it as charity.  Think of it as sustaining music that you love, if you buy an album (digital/CD or LP, doesn’t matter what format) or if you buy their t-shirts, tote bags, or quirk merch, you are helping to sustain that musician’s ability to continue to make music.  It’s an honest exchange that harks back to hanging out in record stores and buying records for fun.  Be curious, you might discover more music that you like!

Read Piney’s diary of a tour that never happened here.

Interviews by Paul Maps

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