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Band Together: How The Music Industry Is Reacting to Covid-19

Friday, 24 April 2020 Written by Sophie Williams

Photo: Craig Thomas/TallBoy Images

It would be an understatement to say that the impact of the coronavirus on the music industry has been swift and devastating. As more and more gigs, festivals and album releases get postponed or cancelled by the day, many of us have had to cut our losses and realise that this escalating situation is ever-changing, with no real end in sight.

That doesn’t mean that we should have to hit pause on any new content, though. With a little help from Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and the like, the industry has quickly adapted to lockdown conditions, as live streams, listening parties and even fanbase Zoom meetings have allowed viewers to feel a sense of community, while helping out many of the musicians that we know and love. Here, we’ve collected just some of the ways that the music world has responded to our current predicament.


Live Streams

In response to this global pandemic, a host of artists have organised virtual events to stay connected with their fans, while fundraising for coronavirus relief efforts around the world. Major acts are certainly pulling their weight, and on April 18 Lady Gaga curated and performed as part of the One World: Together At Home livestream event, which also featured superstars such as Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, Elton John, Billie Eilish, the Rolling Stones, Lizzo and Kacey Musgraves, drawing a viewership of 20.7 million in the US and a peak of six million in the UK, raising over $127 million in the process.

The good eggs at Warner Music Group are set to follow suit with PlayOn Fest, which will  take this whole livestream concert shebang to the next level. Kicking off at noon (ET) on April 24, the first-of-its-kind event will broadcast over 65 pre-recorded, career-defining performances from stellar acts such as Ed Sheeran, Cardi B, Bruno Mars, Coldplay, alt-J, Charli XCX, the Flaming Lips, Korn, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Lil Uzi Vert, Paramore, Jess Glynne, Burna Boy, Slipknot, Twenty One Pilots, Royal Blood—phew!—and more, all in aid of the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization (WHO).

But perhaps the cream of this crop is Bruno Mars’s dazzling 24K Magic live show at the Apollo Theatre, New York, which was taped towards the end of 2017. Here, the globe-conquering singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist plays his 2016 LP of the same name in full, working with a sonic planetarium of lavish electro-funk and early ‘90s R&B to deliver a blinged-up spectacle. And to answer that burning question of yours, no, you cannot find this footage (in its entirety) on YouTube.

Avowed Nirvana fan Post Malone will also be joining in on the action with a livestream Nirvana tribute concert to benefit frontline workers, which will air on April 24 via his official YouTube channel. All proceeds will go to the United Nations Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the WHO, and Google will match all donations at a 2:1 ratio up to $5 million.

Elsewhere, 48 artists will take part in PRS Presents: LCKDOWN, a 24 hour virtual music festival in aid of the PRS Emergency Fund on April 24. Up-and-coming artists such as Joy Crookes, Black Futures and Brooke Bentham will perform from their home studios, kitchens and workspaces alongside established names including Nadia Rose, KT Tunstall and Big Narstie. Clear some floor space and get ready to bust some moves—these musicians need your support now more than ever.

Listening Parties 

Now, who would’ve thought that in the midst of a global pandemic, pudding-bowl hair pioneer and indie-rock lifer Tim Burgess would be heralded as a national hero? (Well, on Twitter, at least.) For the past month, the Charlatans frontman has led the greatest collective listening party of them all, dubbed #TimsTwitterListeningParty.

The near-nightly event takes place at 10pm and has seen Burgess and a whole host of artists live tweet their thoughts and previously unknown nuggets of information about their most iconic albums, song by song. Guests so far have included Pete Doherty on the Libertines’ seminal ‘Up The Bracket’, Bonehead has taken fans through the first two Oasis albums and Wolf Alice have revisited their Mercury Prize-nominated debut, ’My Love Is Cool’. These engaging conversations work as an active distraction from the outside world, and offer music fans a chance to learn even more about the classic records that they cherish so dearly.

Merchandise 

If you are a veteran gig-goer, you may have picked up on the fact that the memorabilia market is in full boom. These days, it is hard to rock up at a gig—particularly an arena show—and avoid seeing a plethora of band t-shirts and associated merchandise on sale in all its glory. It is genius, then, that acts such as Biffy Clyro and Harry Styles, and festivals such as Isle of Wight and Download have made the decision to release a series of limited edition t-shirts in aid of NHS Charities Together and associated relief efforts. The best part? 100% of proceeds raised from each respective t-shirt will be directly donated to those working on the frontline throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Featuring slogans such as "Mon The NHS", “Stay Home. Stay Safe. Protect Each Other” and "Wash Your Barking Hands!", these t-shirts sure do get the point across. If anything, though, it is encouraging to see respected musicians and festival organisers using their platforms to raise money for such a vital cause, especially when a lot of us feel so helpless at the moment.

Other artists have also reacted positively by doing what they do best: releasing new music. On April 21, New Jersey rockers Pinegrove dropped a surprise live album, ‘Elsewhere 2’, on a pay-what-you-want basis in aid of the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund. Though they were preceded by Bon Iver and UB40 featuring Ali Campbell and Astro, who put out their own respective benefit singles in aid of associated charities.

Such is the nature of the precarious gig economy that many independent musicians and businesses are struggling at the moment, but they are making contributions where they can, too. In turn, we can show our support for those unsung heroes; to help our favourite labels, venues, record stores, festivals, merch companies and everything in between, all from the comfort of our own homes.

Relief Funds

If you are able to, consider helping those that have been put directly out of work due to global pandemic. The aforementioned PRS Emergency Relief Fund is working with songwriters, composers and session musicians, while global entertainment empire Live Nation has set up Crew Nation in support of touring and venue crews who rely on concerts to make a living. Ticketing companies are also urging fans to hold on to their tickets for any rescheduled or postponed events.

Independent venues are particularly vulnerable at the moment, so if you’ve ever spent a sweaty night losing it to the next big thing within their walls then consider seeking out their fundraisers. The folks over at Independent Venue Week have assembled a list of current crowdfunding efforts across the UK and USA, while artists including Frank Turner have been vocal about the need to preserve these creative spaces. His livestreams have already helped a number of them, and you can check out details here.

Furthermore, it is not just the live music sector that is in need of further support. Spotify’s partnerships with Cash App and PayPal.me now enable fans to pay artists directly, and in an effort to back independent musicians, publishing platform Bandcamp will host a direct-to-artist sales day on May 1 by waiving any fees for a 24-hour period. It’s worth searching out your favourite acts to see if they have anything planned, with Big Thief recently releasing a demos comp to benefit their road crew and the Hold Steady sharing live albums to provide financial help to workers at the clubs they were recorded in.

#RSDFillTheGap

#RSDFillTheGap is an initiative that encourages music fans to purchase a record of their choice from an independent retailer’s website, replacing what they would have spent on Record Store Day 2020. Despite the never-ending queues, the surplus live albums and the (very) limited editions that always end up on eBay at sky-rocketed prices, Record Store Day is a fitting celebration of the physical format, and a staple in the diaries of many music devotees worldwide. This year, however, the annual April event has been rescheduled to June 20 in hopes that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will subside and independent record stores will be able to reopen by then. Until then, make sure you grab that limited edition record that’s always been on your wish-list!


These public displays of support will ensure that the music industry isn’t left without a lifeline once we reach the other side. We, as music devotees and obsessives, need to work together to appreciate not only what our favourite musicians have done in the past, but what they are working towards in the future. Donate what you can, shout louder on social media and keep buying tickets and physical music—your simple gestures will make a significant impact on our musical ecosystem in the long run. 



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