Nothing could have prepared musicians and others in the music industry for the arrival of COVID-19 in March 2020. After the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020, the industry , like everything else, has been forced to accept a harsh reality. : Things weren’t going to be the same for a long time, maybe ever.
Two years later, the WHO statement raises some questions: how has the industry been affected since then and where is it now?
The answer is complicated. In some ways, it may seem like things are gradually returning to what fans once considered “normal.” Concerts, tours and festivals have been rescheduled, venues rearranged and seats filled, but the journey to get there has not been easy. And it’s far from over.
It is useful to look back to when the pandemic first hit and thousands of artists, venues and industry workers were forced out of their jobs. But people adapted. Artists who used to record in studios with others found themselves tracking songs remotely from home and putting tracks together while staying physically distant from each other. ) Many artists have continued this practice, although in-person studio work is slowly picking up, citing the possibility of collaborating with musicians around the world.) Artists have also done live broadcasts from their homes with bribes virtual or sat on their porches and played for masked outside visitors.
In early 2021, as vaccination programs rolled out across the world, in-person shows and events began to ramp up, but it was not a return to normal. Venues, promoters and artists have had to make decisions about capacity restrictions and vaccination requirements, which has sparked controversy within the industry, as some artists and fans claim such constraints against unvaccinated people create a “discriminated” audience (as Eric Clapton, an anti-lockdown advocate, said last year).
It has also led promoters and ticket sellers to reconsider their refund policies. Last year, several major suppliers, including Ticketmaster and StubHub, came under fire after fans struggled to receive refunds for their purchases instead of waiting for indefinite postponement dates.
Artists who have returned to live shows have radically rethought their policies regarding backstage access, meet-and-greets, and other in-person events that could affect staff safety. Some bands, like Metallica, have even invested in hiring trained dogs that can detect positive coronavirus cases among touring staff.
According to professionals in the sector, this new sanitized version of the tour has significantly changed the atmosphere and the nature of the profession. “It’s not as fun as it used to be,” said Ben Bowers, a guitar tech for the band Rival Sons. The Guardian. “If you spend your time on tour, you sacrifice a lot of your friendships back home. Your friendships are all over the world and the road is your social lifeline. But it was like going to an office job where you have to stay in the office at the end of the night. It was really difficult mentally.
Additionally, new security requirements have created a financial burden on tours, especially those of smaller, independent artists who are still struggling to recover. “For anyone going to shows right now, if they can afford it, they should buy merchandise and support the artists in any way they can outside of buying a ticket,” said Ella Williams, a singer-songwriter who records as Squirrel Flower. NME. “There’s a lot more spending behind the scenes now.”
As cautious as many artists have tried to be, the reality is that nothing is guaranteed. Several big-name bands have had to postpone or cancel shows entirely due to positive cases. Aerosmith, who has not performed live since February 2020, recently canceled their European tourwhile John Mayer had to pull out of shows twice – once in January with Dead and Company and again in February with his solo tour.
The industry as it stands now is fragile, but not hopeless. Even though the number of performances and festivals scheduled for the next few months is still far from pre-pandemic numbers, ticket sales have increased.
“We had a very good month of January in terms of the number of tickets sold – it was twice as many as in 2019,” said Fabrice Sergent, managing partner of ticket buying app Bandsintown. NME. “It’s about 100% gross in 2022 compared to January 2019. It tells that there will be an unprecedented level of demand this year.”
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