Editor’s Note: Please welcome Mike out of Liverpool, England to Madness To Creation. He’s going to cover the darker side of music and help with video content! I am elated to have him on board with Madness To Creation. Here he is discussing his take with the Covid-19 pandemic and the music industry. Here is Mike below!
Now, there are many that say I’m not qualified to write a piece on this, beyond being a generally angry Northern gobshite, but, as someone who loves music, live music in particular, I feel I have a right to an opinion.
It’s no secret by now that this pandemic is having horrific impacts on the lives of almost everyone. That is an unfortunate given. But, particularly in the UK, there does seem to be a sector that is being hit harder than most; the arts. Whether that be music, theatre, stand up comedy, whatever it may be. It’s all been on hold since March. Now, before diving into my personal take on this, the UK is a world leader in the arts. When it comes to music… I believe the UK has had more than its fair share of success stories (The Beatles & Black Sabbath anyone..?). This industry, this legacy, is in danger of collapse.
For those non-UK folk reading this; this week has seen our Government openly come out and say people in the arts should retrain and that jobs in the arts are no more than “luxurious hobbies”. So it seems our Government is quiet content to consign the one world beating aspect of our nation and culture to the history books. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no real fan of opera or ballet, but I understand its importance and the revenue it generates. My focus here, and passion, is for the musicians and bands of the UK, of all genres, and those independent venues we all love. You know the ones; small, dark, occasionally sticky-floored, but all with their own unique sense of charm. I love the independent venues of the UK, from The Flapper (may she rest in peace) and Mama Roux’s in Birmingham to the Live Rooms in Chester to the Rebellion in Manchester and the Zanzibar, The Cavern and Phase One in Liverpool. I’ve lost count of the bands I’ve seen in these venues. And the number of bands that has passed through their doors and then onto larger stages is larger still.
Fortunately (for some) there has been the Cultural Relief Fund. In a nutshell, venues and organisations could apply to the Government for a sum of money that would help them survive until the end of March 2021. Some have been successful, some haven’t. While this is a welcome step and will bring some relief, it doesn’t go far enough. For instance; if things don’t return to ‘normal’ by March next year this will just have been a temporary stop gap. It also does not cover bands and all those independent folk we rely on for our gigs; the technicians, the roadies, the tour managers, the sound and lighting guys.
Why am I saying all this? And why am I saying all this here? Two fold; I want to use my personal experiences to highlight just how valuable music and live music is and secondly, to help, and encourage you all to help, bands as much as you can.
Firstly; music and mental health. I think we would all be in agreement that there are strong and intrinsic links between the music we listen to and our mental health and wellbeing. Particularly in the metal realm. We are passionate about our music. Speaking completely from personal experience: I would not be here today if it was not for metal music. Hyperbolic it may sound, but in metal music I found a community, an outlet, understanding and a sense of belonging. I wasn’t the only angry messed up kid anymore, there was an army of us! When I felt down, when I wanted to hurt myself (or others), when I wanted to die, I put my music on. And it saved me. On many occasions. I am one of hundreds of thousands that share this story. To court controversy, music is our religion. Which makes gigs our church; we come together all for the love of the music. There’s something about live music that gets my adrenaline flowing, regardless of genre. It taps into something deep in me and it makes me feel better. If I’ve had a shitty day, a gig clears it right up. I can’t explain why, maybe you can’t either, but you probably feel it too.
Sadly, there have been no gigs for quite a while and it looks like there might not be for sometime to come. I understand the reasons for it, I support the reasons for it but I don’t like it. From a mental health perspective (for fans) working towards getting back to live music is essential, whatever it takes. From a business point of view; bands tend to make the most money from merch and touring. If you’re a band that’s starting out the only way you might make some money is by gigging and flogging merch. Even Randy Blythe of Lamb Of God refers to himself as a travelling t-shirt salesman. The bands, and all the people that work with and support bands, are losing their lifeblood. For many this means they won’t be able to survive. I’ve already seen one of my all time favourite bands, the very established and long lasting Anathema, bow down to economics and realise they can’t currently afford to continue.
This leads me on to my second point; as fans, we need to do all we can to help keep bands afloat. If we don’t, they may not be around much longer. Which then circles round to the no-gigs-impacting-on-mental-health thing.
SO! How can you support these bands when you can’t go to shows?
- While music sales may not bring in as much revenue as it used to do, every little helps. Go and buy the music of the bands you love, don’t just stream it.
- Buy merch
- Ideally, buy the merch and the music from the bands as directly as you can. Avoid intermediaries like Amazon, HMV (or whatever the US equivalent is… Hot Topic? Best Buy? Walmart?). Check the bands social media links, buy from their website or their Bandcamp page.
- If you don’t already, follow the band on social media, subscribe to their YouTube channel. One or two may not make much difference but there are pay thresholds at work and the more the merrier (and the potential for more pennies too)
- If the band/band members have other revenue streams like Twitch or crafting/making things, support that too.
It’s not much, I know. But it is certainly better than nothing. I don’t know about you, but I need my favourite bands to survive. So I can too.