It comes as no surprise that the music industry is suffering right now.
As most people have heard, major festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Glatonsbury, and numerous others are all issuing refunds amidst significant date changes. Not only that, but important ceremonies like the Country Music Awards, the Emmys, the Billboard Music Awards, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony are just a tiny blip on a long list of events that have been cancelled or postponed.
On a much more critical level, many small to medium-sized venues housing independent artists and bands on a nightly basis will be forced to shut their doors for good if this situation lasts as long as expected. As a result, the indie acts who fill those clubs, halls, and ballrooms are stuck scrambling for a source of income while their livelihoods hang in the balance for months on end.
Industry experts speculate that most ticketing companies won’t survive the crisis either. They’re predicting that if those companies are removed from the live music equation for long enough, innovative artists might find new ways to sell their music without going through an intermediary to do so.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that live music is the only weak spot in this very vulnerable industry. While physical music sales soared in 2019, even the trendiest of hipsters will struggle to buy vinyls, cassettes, or CDs for the foreseeable future. Record Store Day (originally scheduled for April 18th) is postponed, small music stores were ordered to close up shop, and online retailers like Amazon are halting physical music production until further notice.
Arguably the most peculiar statistics show that the streaming industry isn’t basking in everyone’s respectively free schedules. In fact, while most people were (supposedly) home with an overabundance of time on their hands, streaming numbers dropped nearly 8% two weeks ago, then barely broke even this past week.
Many people might see those statistics and jump to the conclusion that most listeners are turning to other sources of entertainment beyond music during this difficult time. To an extent, they’re right – television streaming skyrocketed 85% in the over the first three weeks of March according to Nielson.
Business implications aside however, the misconception that music’s importance is dwindling during this challenging moment in history couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, this global pandemic has proven once again that music holds an indescribably magical power to unify international cultures and local communities alike.
Think back to the start of this worldwide panic. While friends and strangers raided grocery stores for the chance to deposit their life savings into the toilet paper market, Italians were setting a beautiful example for the rest of the world by singing together from their balconies despite being among the first nations locked in quarantine.
Instrument retailers, manufacturers, and self-employed instructors aren’t simply shutting their doors in self-loathing sadness. They’re making themselves digitally valuable by offering new services like online music lessons for both beginners and experts. After all, we’d be lying to ourselves if we didn’t think about dusting off (and disinfecting) that old instrument in the corner of the room with all this extra time on our hands.
What about the artists stuck without gigs? They didn’t throw in the towel when concert halls closed their doors. They’re making livestreaming mainstream and putting a heavy emphasis on online merchandise sales. That occupational pivot may not be a moneymaking gold mine, but it will support many artists in the short term as loyal fans have proven that they’ll do what it takes to keep their idols in the green.
For the artists and venues who don’t have the reach or social influence to keep themselves afloat, their followers and advocates are rallying together to assist them. Not only are many cities, fans, and activist groups finding creative ways to financially support their local music community, but honorable media outlets are doing a damn good job of letting those people know exactly how they can help. Even the Unites States stimulus package approved last week will be a breath of fresh air for songwriters, self-employed musicians, sound engineers, music support crews and more, all of whom can be eligible for economic injury disaster loan grants.
The point in all this isn’t to say that the world is a crazy place. You already knew that.
The point is that now is an amazing time to celebrate music, no matter if it’s new, old, undiscovered, or a your favorite songs of all time. Pick up that instrument, sing in the judgement-free isolation of your own home, and spice up your day-to-day rut by backing your life with a soundtrack.
That being said, the following playlist contains 30 of my favorite songs released over the past three months. As always, the songs are in no particular order with a restriction of only one song per artist. Yes, these are the songs that have kept my socially-distanced life entertaining thus far, and yes, I hope a few can help do the same for you.
I never thought I’d say it, but damn do I miss 2019. Forget that 2020 is spiraling down that drain by reliving the songs that defined last year: Top 100 Songs of 2019
If you’re looking to help out your local music community, this article from Rolling Stone provides what I would consider the most comprehensive and practical tips to be a thoughtful supporter: How to Support Independent Musicians Right Now