Show must go on! Musicians open up about lockdown

April 23, 2020

As the novel coronavirus puts the world on hold, festivals, gigs and albums have been pushed back. But this screeching halt has not stopped musicians from doing what they do best: creating.

From live streaming to international collaborations, musicians in lockdown have found lots of ways to keep going.

Julie August – singer/songwriter

Julie has spoken about how the lack of gigs is difficult on a young artist. Live streams have become a common alternative, but it’s not enough to make a sustainable income. So, she teaches English as a foreign language by day and writes songs by night.

Lockdown is not hard on artists like her, who take it as an opportunity to work on new projects. There has never been a better time to work on one’s portfolio and she is making the most of it. However, with studio equipment missing, new releases have to be postponed for now.

There is no telling when artists will be back on stage. But Julie encourages every young musician to have a back-up plan and take this time to really study the way the industry works.

Charlie Draper- solo musician

Charlie plays the theremin, a fascinating instrument with a ghostly sound that reminds us of Midsomer Murders. He describes playing this unique instrument as “sculpting sounds in midair”.

Lucky to be able to record from home, Charlie has collaborated with artists worldwide since the lockdown started. They each work remotely, send each other their bits of work and then put the pieces together in a multitrack.

Although he agrees that technology is an asset in isolation, he points to the drawbacks of live streaming gigs and concerts.

Also, recent data shows that revenues from streaming apps are quite low, with musicians needing hundreds of streams to make £1.
So without millions of streams, artists cannot have a sustainable share of the payout.

Charlie advises artists who find it difficult to monetise performances to turn to teaching and share their work on Patreon.

Cherif Hashizume- producer/songwriter/sound engineer

Lots of musicians enjoy to be given challenges and test their creativity. Cherif is an innovator who welcomes the possibilities given by the lockdown.
He talked about his collaborations with artists from Mexico and Germany, who are setting up a virtual reality venue for algorave enthusiasts.

Algorave is a type of music generated using live coding technique which tech-savvy artists can explore. Engaging an audience can be difficult, especially during isolation. So giving people a different kind of experience is sure to bring the industry forward.

Cherif considers himself to be a special case, having set up a small studio at home. He is optimistic about his time in lockdown, using it to participate in new projects and uplift people’s spirits.

Anil Sebastian- singer/producer and co-founder of London Contemporary Voices Choir

The reality of having life performances in front of an audience seems like a distant future to many of us.
Anil fears that it won’t be possible to do it until next year. One of his main jobs is to run a choir and not being able to see people face to face is “heart-wrenching”.

To some extent, the pandemic is a bit of a mirror to our inner lives and our relationships with loss and grief and change

Anil Sebastian

Musicians now have to do so many adjustments and limit their interactions to video calls. While others might come up against brick wall, Anil sees opportunity.

He discovered that he likes working on his own and then sending his work by correspondence.
Keeping a timetable helps restore a sense of routine too. And when it comes to the choir he is running, he is making sure mental health is being looked after!

We’re all in this together. I really feel for early career artists, I just want to give them all a virtual hug

Anil Sebastian

Anil, Cherif and Charlie are also part of the Lockdown Experiment, an ongoing international music project created during lockdown. Each day, a different artist adds 15 seconds of their work.

Other projects such as Isolation Tapes have emerged as well. Live streaming is the new norm and artists are adapting to it quite fast.

This only proves how resilient the creative industry is in lockdown. It is truly a time of adaptation and reflection. And one of the most important things to learn from it is that we rely on each other.

Whether we will be able to see our favourite artists on stage soon is hard to predict. With gigs moving to the online in lockdown, artists are surely reinventing themselves. And they’re giving us the escapism we need as well!

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