The Coronavirus pandemic is currently spreading accross the world with devastating implications for public health, employment and people’s lives.
Over the next few months we will look at how this will affect the music industry too, with large scale music events cancelled and increasing self isolation we will examine the potential financial, personal and professional impact the pandemic will have on artists, bands, labels and festivals. Today, Luke Griffiths explains how it has affected his band False Heads, who have had to cancel their trip to the US and how it has impacted the release of their new album It’s All There but You’re Dreaming.
It’s increasingly likely that this is going to get a lot more bleak before it gets better. For us personally, we had to cancel our trip to the US, not only losing money we had borrowed from our friends and family but also completely derailing a major part of our album campaign. Our plan was to play St Rose University, release our album in NYC on March 13th by playing a show at the Bowery Electric (New Colossus festival) and finish off by playing shows at SXSW. Once SXSW had cancelled, we decided we could not justify travelling to the states to play half the trip and travel to Austin to have an extremely expensive holiday. We aren’t trust-fund or hand-me-down indie, we don’t have any super rich families funnelling money through us and we don’t have a daddy or mummy in the music industry.
We were devastated by this plan falling through but we were offered to play the Rockpalast Crossroads Festival in Germany. This is one of the other territories we were focusing on for the album release and this was something seen as absolutely crucial we do as it would be our european television debut.
The implications of the virus spreading escalated quickly and due to travel restrictions and a complete lack of ability to gain travel insurance – we also had to pull out of this. It looks likely our (unannounced as of yet) in-store at Banquet Records will be postponed and regardless of the fact our tour is relatively small venues, we are unsure what’s happening there as of now.
This does all sound like a pity party and it is a bit, we’ve spent years overcoming the hurdles of shiesters, frauds and mean-spirited wronguns that take advantage of young musicians in the music industry.
We’ve been working fucking shit full-time jobs as pub workers, delivery drivers, in call centres and labourers to get into a position with a decent team to release our debut album – only to be derailed by a fucking pandemic. If you’d have told me this 6 months ago I would have laughed in your face. The reality though is, as bad as I feel for myself, people are dying and I do completely understand why these strict measures are being taken. I think you’re being slightly naive if you don’t. But this is an opinion piece on the impact on our band and the music industry so forgive me for being slightly self-indulgent. I do completely understand that people are going to lose their life and/or have theirs destroyed by this. However, this is going to include artists and people within the music industry.
Speaking to agents, venue owners, local and national promoters, journalists and other bands – this really is something no-one knows how to deal with and people are genuinely scared of their future. This clearly spawns into other businesses as well but what I find genuinely depressing is it’s becoming clearer and clearer that the ‘indie’ or ‘rock’ part of the music industry is becoming increasingly like a monarchy or a club for the super-rich. Every other band, journalists, twenty-something in the music industry seems to have been passed the crown by King Bono (or someone similar) or daddy covers rent in Camden whilst they complete their unpaid internship at the Guardian. It’s not a secret that the lack of money involved in music at an independent level has created a vacuum allowing snot-nosed rich kids to treat music and music journalism like play-doh, making musical microwave meals and audio lobotomies.
For those from humble backgrounds that wish to work in the music industry, this could really be the last nail in the coffin. In a post-corona world, I envision a world where Lily Allen hosts an annual house party where all the celebrities and socialites play top trumps to decide who’s child gets the Radio X daytime playlist slot. Those of us who would hope for a chance to partake in writing an album review or stringing some chords together would beg for scraps dressed up as maids and butlers. The children of the rich would practice screaming in our faces about climate change as we serve them cristal on their private jets, just in case they win a BRIT award in the near future.
Having laid out that bleak picture, I will say those who cannot afford to simply ‘ride’ this out need to stick together and so far it seems like people have been. I’ll also credit has to be given to the likes of Elizabeth Aubrey who wrote an article at NME about bands who had suffered from the cancellation of SXSW and Laurence Fitzmaurice who did the same at Stereogum. We should take note of those who stick their head above the parapet to help those they don’t have to.