How Covid has impacted young musicians since the start of the pandemic

RIP gigs: The struggles of being a musician in a global pandemic

Music, for many, is a vital source of inspiration, creativity, and support. I know for sure that if I hadn’t had music to listen to during these various and seemingly never-ending lockdowns, I would’ve gone insane.  From the times of people singing from their balconies back in April 2020, to viral TikTok hits like Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘drivers license’ souring into the global charts – music has provided a soundtrack to the bizarre and frightening times of the past year, as well as a way to bring people together without breaking social distancing guidelines.

The music and entertainment industry as a whole has taken a huge hit thanks to the pandemic. Live gigs cancelled, pubs and clubs closed, tours and music festivals cancelled (let us have a moment of silence to mourn the cancellation of Glastonbury 2021), anticipated releases postponed – musicians, especially up-and-coming ones, have found themselves pretty screwed over by 2020. Unlike in COVID-free New Zealand, partying in clubs and jamming at concerts feels like a complete world away from here in the UK.

In these current times not only is it tricky for artists to make money, with the loss of PRS earnings from playing in licensed venues and platforms such as Spotify’s notoriously questionable per-stream rates, but the inability to connect with fans in person and network with other artists has left young people trying to make it in the music industry feeling pretty stuck in the mud.

That being said, the streaming of music rose by some 20% during lockdown last year and streaming itself made up a whopping 80% of overall music consumption. Creatives are being noticed on platforms such as TikTok – with various singers, guitarists, drummers, bassists and the like amassing great followings. Upcoming musicians are also utilising social media in new and exciting ways on platforms like Twitch and Instagram TV to get recognition. The ‘Keep Music Alive’ campaign, committed to ensuring artists’ incomes by giving them a fairer slice of the music streaming cake, has also managed some success with the Government who are now holding enquiries into the issue. Hardship grants such as the ISM’s Member’s fund and the Continuo Foundation’s grant also shed some positivity, providing much needed financial support to musicians.

Nothing brings more joy than a great song. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being in a busy crowd and utterly hypnotised by a live show. Truly unbeatable vibes. Music nourishes the soul, and I miss it – as I’m sure a lot of others do too. With there being nothing else to do but sit at home, I even know friends who’ve decided to give music production a whirl themselves – buying cool little pieces of kit and trying their luck on GarageBand to pass the time.

Artists like Rina Sawayama and her cracking 2020 debut album, Puma Blue, whose 2021 debut album ‘In Praise Of Shadows’ was mostly written and recorded in his bedroom, Inhaler, Alewya, and Baby Queen to name just a few are continuing to battle their way through this pandemic and achieve success despite all the hardships that these times have brought.

I think there are lots of exciting times to come, and there’s hope to be had for the boom of new musicians, music, gigs, and good times that will be all-the-sweeter once normal life returns.