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The Transformative Impact of Coronavirus On Music

By Neive McCarthy

It’s hard to go a single conversation without the mention of Coronavirus, or COVID-19. Dominating everyone’s thoughts and reaching terrifying scales, the virus is completely impacting all aspects of life. The music industry is no exception – last week already saw the detrimental decision by the government to advise against going to pubs and clubs, but not closing them completely until Friday evening, already causing damage to their wellbeing. With them now completely closed for the foreseeable future, the music industry continues to be affected by this pandemic – of course businesses, club-owners, and artists have been heavily impacted as it is, but it is safe to say that it is beginning to increasingly impact music journalists and fans alike. With some of the biggest events on the music calendar – Coachella, Glastonbury, more and more tours – cancelled, it’s becoming a dire time to be a music fan and journalist.

For music journalists, the lack of live music means a loss of a great proportion of content. This feels particularly relevant for student newspapers – longer articles and features can often feel daunting, but gig reviews are short, and exciting, thus making up a great deal of the pages of many a student newspaper. For all publications alike, there’s a lack, and for a lot of people this could damage their income. The effects only continue to span further.

The experience of live music is something inexplicable – an entirely different experience and opportunity to any other form of music, it makes up an abundance of mine and others most cherished memories. To have waited eagerly for something so long only for it to be cancelled is undoubtedly gutting, especially when it can be quite difficult to catch certain artists. Yes, as such crowded spaces, gigs are perhaps the worst places to be when something so serious is spreading, and self-isolating and foregoing live music for the time being is essential, but this doesn’t mean to say it won’t leave numerous young music fans devastated.

It’s a time of disappointment and fear – something keenly felt in the air as the prospect of remaining inside with such little freedom begins to take its toll on many individual’s mental health. But perhaps it doesn’t have to be blatant sadness and no light at the end of the tunnel: as a direct result of the chaos encompassing us, our experience of music has begun to shift significantly.

As writers and listeners alike, we have more opportunity to delve deeper into music; exploring and experiencing music we perhaps wouldn’t have before in ways we wouldn’t have before either. Student and music writer, Lizzie Wright, says “music has only become more of an intimate or lonely thing, but that’s not so negative. Before I would listen to it when walking to uni (in public), but now it’s exclusively when I’m completely alone, and I’ve actually been exploring more genres that I’d maybe be embarrassed to admit listening to usually.” She went on to add that listening to more upbeat music in this time “definitely helps with the low mood”. In such a trying time, could music be our saving grace? Of course, tuning into some ABBA and having a singalong won’t stop the spread of Coronavirus and the need to self-isolate, but it might take the edge of a very dejected two weeks inside with a lack of live music.

As Lizzie suggests, this time can quickly become one of experimentation and freedom with immersing oneself in music; it is rapidly becoming more interactive and indulgent, and the long hours of self-isolation transform it from a background activity to something active and intrinsically personal. It is inevitably encouraging music down a different route, which has the potential to be something both innovative and positive.

Conor Breen, music lover and member of the band Children of the Year, has already faced a cancelled gig off the back of the current situation, but has found that it has encouraged him to write a lot more music than normal, and attempt something new: “I livestreamed an acoustic set on Instagram which I’ve never done, and ended up getting about 100 people watching, probably because everyone’s locked inside.” A rising trend of artists from John Legend to Rex Orange County to local, rising bands like Conor’s performing live on Instagram for their fans has emerged, and it could be the start of something new. Keeping both artist and listener entertained, to an extent it fills the gap usually occupied by live music; it has the capacity to tide music lovers over for the time being.

Allowing more connection, perhaps this new trend affords something live music does not: it gives access to a more stripped back version of your favourite artists, and though it may not be as wonderful as live music can be, it could be enough for now. One of the most special things about music is its ability to bring people together – a source of bonding, relating and uniting, let’s hope that even when times become more daunting, this change to music allows this ability to continue.

Image credit: Andrew Allcock