I know we’re not meant to say things like “i’m having a really nice time” when discussing the social-distancing repercussions of the coronavirus. Buuut I'm going with a positive spin on this one.
Musicians and bedroom producers have been training for this moment their entire lives. Shout out to all the antisocial DJs and introverts who’ve been hiding in the shadows, it’s your time to shine. The only plus side of some psycho virus out there stopping us all from playing gigs and slamming on the industry we love, is that we’ve been given the ticket to a one-way forced staycation. A journey of artistic discovery, where one slows down in order to keep up and come out the other side. Where finding new ways to be creative will keep you from falling into the decline of insanity.
Ok, first thing’s first, perfect your ‘rise n shine routine’ to a tight 11am wakeup and make time to talk to all your plants because inanimate objects are your mates now and we don't ignore our mates. Then enjoy three cups of instant coffee as you’re running out of the good stuff and forgot to stock up before Patricia closed. Hang on: is coffee an essential business? Treat yourself to five chocolate biscuits for breakfast (because fluffy slippers and robe life) and predict the world instant coffee crisis. Then get down to business because we’re ready to kill this lockdown.
Since I'm going into week two of this ‘stuck at home artist-life’ I’d be happy to give you a glimpse into aaaaall the possibilities. I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been a joy to take a break and focus on music.
We didn’t realise that a pandemic meant we’d get free stuff.
Since early last week the music industry really started to rally around their artists by dropping prices of production tools and encouraging aspiring musicians to use this time for nurturing creativity. I was due to renew my soundcloud unlimited account and was stoked to see an email from CEO Kerry Trainor launching their worldwide initiative to help the global creator family by making soundcloud pro-unlimited subscriptions 50% off till March 31st. That’s the lowest it’s ever been! I raised my hands to the sky and did a little dance in my living room to the music gods. Then I popped on to beatport and found a march sale going down. I mean we’re not making it rain dollar bills/coins over here but if you’ve been putting off an inevitable purchase in the name of your music career, maybe now’s the time to see if it’s come down in price. Nothing says ‘you’re worth it!’ more than a coronavirus apocalypse.
Music companies have also put their apps out for free for a limited time. As a gesture to show their support and uplift the community with some positive vibes and to promote expression and experimentation. Also, probably to try and keep people out of trouble, like can you not go to the beach right now. I’ve tried my hand at both the iKaossilator from Korg and Moogs Mini-moog synth apps. They’ll be available till the end of April, but definitely try and download them on an ipad or tablet for easier dexterity.
By weird coincidence I had just finished my latest mixtape when the world started to get into quarantine mode last week, and by Wednesday when I was mastering and uploading my mix to soundcloud, all my corporate friends were going into WFH (work from home) mode. It was really cute actually, everyone had remembered they too had soundcloud accounts and I started getting these rather articulate and in depth reviews like “this mix gives me memories of Amsterdam hideaways, vibes of melancholy dusk and visions of a cyberpunk future. You did good. Real good.” - Um thank you Jarrod, and yes it iiiiis really exciting to work from home with no pants.
We predicted the rise of VR concerts for 2020 but we weren’t expecting the blowup of ‘quaranstreaming.’ Every artist under the sun has put up their version of a live stream in support of global social distancing. With the mass cancellations of all major concerts and music events, you can find shows from Neil Young, Coldplay, and the Dropkick Murphys, to full live-stream day parties from a lineup of DJs. Carl Cox is doing one for each of the 13 shows he’s cancelled and Mr Afterparty hosted a ‘last night a live stream saved my life’ event to raise money for the coronavirus with DJs like Riva Starr andA rt Department. Online platforms like bandsintown have jumped onboard by promoting all live streams on their new ‘watch live’ feature on the artist platform. They’ve also set up a TWITCH channel from which they’ll donate viewing funds to the MusiCares COVID-19 relief fund. As I'm writing this James Black just tweeted that he’s jumping in for a show on his insta-story since we’re in for the long haul. Keen.
I finally started watching my long list of live mixcons with industry legends like Jeff Ellis and Bob Power. They were so boring they ended up replacing the Calm app for putting me to sleep at night. Those video’s proved useful for that subconscious memory retention thing though because as I sat down on Ableton the next morning, I ended up using some mastering trick I definitely didn’t know the day before.
There have been heaps of self-quarantined artists using this time to connect with their fans and share some of their production skills as they focus on making new music themselves. Techno DJ Scuba put up all the stems on bandcamp for one of his tracks and encouraged his fans to get involved and create something cool to send him for feedback. His stance was to encourage artists not to download anymore music software at this time but make the most of what they had by scrapping the formal mixdown process and getting creative instead.
Ok if i'm being honest it started with the 30 day squat challenge because i’ve gotta pretend that i’m trying to stay in shape for the inevitable toilet-paper showdown. But after becoming totally zen from Matthew McConaughey sleep stories on the Calm app, it escalated to expanding my creativity with music. It's a great time to lock down that 30 day whirlwind tour of free trials for all the apps, plugins and DAWs that you’ve been wanting to put your hands to and give them a good bashing. When James Zabiela was coming up as a DJ he shut himself away for a month with the EFX-1000 effects machine and figured out all these tricks. He then sent Pioneer a video saying ‘yo, check out all the stuff your machine can do’ which resulted in him becoming a spokesperson for Pioneer DJ equipment. Oh the possibilities.
It’s so easy to be glued to your laptop with all this online stimulation and constant news flow. I’ve taken to the bookshelf and put aside some old favourites to spark my imagination and force my brain to chill. Besides Alice Coltrane and her psychedelic jazz albums for background music, I've been delving into The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bolgakov which is about some dark humour, the Devil, a black cat and a witch, amongst other things. Then some Terry Pratchet Discworld series about a planet on the back of four elephants standing on a giant turtle's back. Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers book ‘Acid for the Children’ surprised me with the bassist's poignant storytelling and delicate creative writing entries. An easy and totally inspiring read for any artist trying to find their flow. I’ve been teaching myself to speedread for the past few months so i'm curious to see how many books i can get through by the end of these crazytown vibes.
Whatever you do, enjoy the ride. Artists were born to thrive on these struggle-streets and we’ll come out the other side together. A little chubbier but probably quite well rested because Matthew McConaughey now reads you bedtime stories every night. What’s that quote by Kurt Cobain? “Thanks for the tragedy, I need it for my art.” Or if that’s too bleak for you, just put on some Gloria Gaynor “I will survive” and get on with it. You’ve got an album to put out, a bottle of wine to drink and if all else fails, remember, we’re all alone, together. - Deep.
Stay socially distant, fam.
A charity initiative to keep the Night Cat's door's open and their punters and Musos pumpin'.
Words by Peta.
Now that a large portion of music-buying has been taken over by streaming, merch sales have made up a massive part of the industry and contributed to direct artist support.
Words by Kavina.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the music industry, it’s also seen a number of live streaming performances popping up online. When this is over though, and our lives go back to (somewhat) normal – will musicians and artists continue to live stream?
Words by Annie-Mei Forster.