The Sun Will Shine Again
Unprecedented, unparalleled, unrelenting: these are but a few descriptions used commonly in these strange days of Covid-19.
As we cross into the most challenging and life altering circumstances since 9/11, we are faced with two dilemmas. First, the immediate impact on society right this moment with everyone hunkering down and hoping for the best outcome possible – secondly, what awaits us when the crisis has passed – and that fear is palpable amongst anyone you chat with, or across every media platform in existence these days.
Pretty much every multi-billion-dollar sector in the world has been stopped in its tracks similar to hitting the emergency stop on a subway car.
The world we musicians at whatever level have enjoyed, has suddenly ceased to exist as we try and grapple with having our gigs to one extent or another cancelled right before our eyes by something far beyond our understanding.
A force so powerful that the global music industry; be it musicians in venues or stadiums, production companies supplying lights & sound, roadies, office people for the bigger touring bands, agents, promoters – the entire industry has come under the influence of something that has no respect for borders or a multi-billion dollar business.
As equally concerning is how many venues are going to collapse during and after this has passed, as some projections are proposing this might go on for several months in duration. Fortunately, the Canadian Government has come out with a financial aid package to assist all Canadians and even those in the music industry are going to be able to apply for economic help during these difficult days – but it’s the aftermath of the fall out that will matter.
Venues are closed until March 31st, but no one takes that deadline seriously as it’s understood this will go far beyond that line in the sand. The upside for venues is that aside from a take-out program in their day to day business, their overhead costs will drop dramatically. Wages to staff, buying of product be it alcohol or food, lights/heat will all come with a lower price tag – hopefully in each individual case a venue owner’s mortgage/rent will be temporarily waved so as to facilitate a softer cushion to fall on during a mandated shut-down of their business.
The owners I have talked to in and outside of London fear more the restart and how long it will take – and if this virus will forever change the landscape. World scientists and medical experts say this could last 2-6 months with no vaccine on the horizon for 18 months – that is a long time to stay dormant. The economic devastation will last for months as people, business & government try and get back on their feet and get the mighty wheel turning again.
When the world opens for business again, and it will, there will be a large percentage of house-bound that will flock to restaurants, venues, sports and entertainment outside their home – but will it be enough? People are going to be very wary of just going back to “normal” – the new normal will be FAR different than the one most of us have lived with, much akin to how travelling be it on planes or across borders changed after 9/11.
There is going to be an enormous percentage of the population that will still keep their kids at home, people won’t go to large sporting events, flood shopping malls, attend venues, go on vacation, etc. – simply because no matter how much the government tells them it is safe to do so, they will still be skeptical and will choose their own point in time of comfort, to reintegrate to life outside their homes. Those who are older and who historically had the most money to spend on entertainment at all levels, will be the most hesitant & that’s only being human – but eventually they too will relax enough to resume a life they had to put on the shelf.
From the musician’s side of things be it the solo act in a bistro, to a roadie working for a larger touring band, gigs have evaporated in a matter of a day or two. For those that work in the industry full-time the immediate reaction was cold white fear with regards to having food, paying their bills, mortgage/rent, their health and that of their family. As mentioned above, the Canadian government is going to see to it that all Canadians have money coming in to help get them thru this difficult time – although the “14 week period” and suggestion that this aid is “Stage #1” has many people pointing out the obvious of these 2 issues but we will have to wait to see what it is they aren’t telling us yet.
Regardless, this economic aid will certainly help a lot of musicians who have seen their gigs wiped out in a single mandate, to at least have some food and a roof over their head – and that aside from health is all that matters most of the time.
So, what’s the upside to all of this?
Venues will be lost, but those that survive will see their patrons at some point in time flock back to the nest – at that point venues who already for the most part are shrewd business owners, will have had time to sharpen how they do things more efficiently if possible. Their billion-dollar industry will be noticed by government and if done properly, a collective joining of them will give them leverage to band together into a political powerhouse going forward to address the long overdue issues that have hampered them in doing business for a few decades.
In the meantime, this time is fantastic opportunity for full-time and part-time musicians. For those that have been sent home from their day jobs and have an abundance of time on their hands, this gives them a limited shot at doing that one thing that a family & day job can chew into – practice!!
That 8 hours a day spent working in your old life can now be subdivided down into crucial and vital time to improve your skill on whatever instrument you play. All that time you were at work saying to yourself “I wish I was at home playing my guitar or my drums” – now is your chance to upgrade your skills in difficult times to improve to a greater extent than you have been able to in years.
For the songwriters, this a wonderful time to unleash your talent and start writing some material that makes your best song before - sound like amateur league. We will also see who is the most creative and ambitious as musicians as they utilize video format to keep in touch with their fans regarding their music.
Bands will have time to dissect their set lists and stage show to come out of the gates far more prepared to put on a “show”, because when things start to rev up again, venues will be far more focused on the money they spend on bands, and those that come out “new & improved” will vault to top of the list. Not every band is going to be able to bank on getting their usual rotation back, the venues are going to be coming out of the Dark Ages and will be shrewdly choosing who is going to play, and how much live music they are going to have until things get back to being profitable to the point of feeling less cautious.
Those that use this time wisely are going to come out ahead be it as an individual or as part of a band. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to “up” their game and take advantage of the down time.
The sun will shine again, it’s just going to take a lot longer than what they think it is going to take.
This will instill priorities in people that they never contemplated before, be it personal hygiene, being more frugal with their money, looking out for family and friends in a way that they might have taken for granted before. This entire situation is a chance for society at every level to re-boot with a more conscientious approach to life.
Hopefully governments will look at the priority of health care in a far different way as this has pushed the entire system to the brink of collapse and with any hope – governments will be far more aware of NOT wasting tens of billions of dollars when that “rainy day” will for sure come again some day.
Jim McCormick - Allstage