I’m here to moan about Covid-2019. I’m sorry. It’s inescapable and permanently on my mind as well as yours. Before you leave, I am not going to be flippant and make light of the situation. I am a Biologist, so I’m fully aware of the impacts and scale that this has. But here at Picky Bastards we talk about music. And like everything in our lives, it seems this has also been affected in unimaginable ways.
The scale of this is obviously massive. For me, it all started to hit home when SXSW was called off. This time of year is the best for new music, because of this festival. I have never been, but every year the media outlets are full of exciting new discoveries that they then relay into my ears. I discovered current favorites like Chloe Foy and Anna Meredith this way. And though I may have found them independently. I also might not have.
Since then large gatherings have wisely been cancelled, which means that live music is pretty much out the window (except for your neighbour loudly singing ‘Hero’ by Enrique Inglesias). I had tickets to see LA Priest for the first time in a couple of weeks. I was really really excited.
It all makes sense that these events have been cancelled. Reducing the burden on our health care systems by flattening the curve and staying inside is essential. But it just sucks.
And really I’m not here to moan about not being able to get a few new musical discoveries or being able to have a fun night out. It sucks that these new artists are losing one of their few chances to break out. It sucks that for a lot of smaller artists who live for and by their gigging that they now have nothing to support themselves with. Even more established artists have taken huge financial hits. Artists like TORRES had to cancel tours and rapidly figure out to get themselves and their crew home as the international borders slammed shut.
So as much as I can moan about Covid-2019, at the end of the day it is a natural phenomena. A devastating one at that. What I am actually moaning about is the response of the governments, both here in my adopted country (USA) and my home country (UK). They seem so reluctant to provide any financial support to anyone, beyond a few payment relief schemes. I know I am in a privileged position where I can just shift my working world from my desk at work, to my kitchen table. Employment that does not fit this 9-5 routine is not valued across the board, so artists, free-lancers and all sorts of seasonal workers will suffer without help. These people and communities are so vital to our cultural identity and they are probably going to be bearing the brunt of the economic impact of Covid-2019.
One of the most heartening responses to this pandemic has been an outpouring of community support. People are using what they have to try and figure out how they can support other folks. There are attempts to boost the streaming for bands with cancelled tours or even increase the money artists get from Spotify. Or efforts to match up folks who need money with those who have it so they can directly support them. And this is not a unidirectional thing. Artists themselves are finding ways to still engage as everyone heads online. Christine and the Queens and Frank Turner are just some of the folks who have been streaming shows online. Laura Marling is even doing guitar lessons on Instagram. These people keep on giving.
We can’t trust that Boris Johnson and Donald Trump are going to be the ones that make the difference. Everyone can do at least one of these things, and the luckier ones among us can be doing all of them. We are a community of music lovers, and it’s time to give back to the musicians we love. I think I am going to just keep it simple and use this as an opportunity to stock up on merch and vinyl for my favorite bands. A PUP stationary set will be a perfect way to start, so I can write down all my mad ravings as I self-isolate.
Words by Matt Paul