It’s been a terrifying week. The combination of uncertainty over the health risks of coronavirus, the utter chaos at the grocery stores, school closings and financial worries have led to a tangible sense of dread. Many musicians are suffering, with concerts and indeed tours being cancelled every day. Everybody knows that the cancellations and postponements are absolutely necessary to slow down the exponential spread of this virus but still, the implications are devastation for the entire artistic community.
Azam Ali from electro-acoustic global band Niyaz told us, “What was so surreal was that we were well into our tour and academic residencies at universities when it all came to an abrupt halt. People don’t understand that when you run a big production how many people are relying on you as the artist. It is not just us who take a financial hit but all the musicians, crew members, venues and booking agents who also have to absorb that hit. Cancelling the MET in NYC was particularly difficult for me personally because I worked so hard for so many years for this invitation. Financially it has been devastating as we were relying on income from this tour to sustain us in the coming months. How we will navigate financially, we have no idea. We truly are in uncharted territory. We have a 12 year old son so there is a responsibility of keeping him healthy in body & mind. Fortunately he plays cello so he has a creative outlet as well. We’ve also bought a lot of art supplies to keep us busy. Thankfully our recording studio is at home so we will also be producing new music. We are still reeling from the initial hit of this crisis so we have not yet figured out another way to earn income in the coming months.”
Local artist Beck Black told us that, “My band and I were planning travel to Austin, Texas for a showcase with LA Records at the Infinite Monkey Theorem this Saturday. We are also filming a rock n roll musical about a virus. It’s been nuts! First SXSW was canceled! Every moment has been a slow decline into the void of having to pull the plug on our SAG feature film “Sink.” My drummer may not be able to leave L.A. since it’s on lock down. We have real news anchors in Austin acting in our film that are now reporting from home. I can’t even fly out from the east coast since a passenger contracted the virus and traveled through my local airport two days ago. We have real army personal in our film playing a soldier that quarantines my character. Now the soldier in our film is practicing a self quarantine since they were around a passenger at the Austin airport a few days ago that contracted the virus. We were scheduled to film a theater scene at University of Texas, but then the president’s wife of the university tested positive for the virus and the campus is on lockdown until March 30th. As the social gathering numbers decline, and due to the safety of others, as the executive producer, I pulled our SAG feature film from production and will postpone until June 1st hoping conditions change. Here’s my story on art imitating life and life imitating art!”
She’s right too — the parallels are startling:
“We are majorly an all female production and the feminine intuition has been ever present since we began pre-production last fall. Written by self proclaimed “germaphobe” Eliza Wren, an up and coming writer/director based in Austin, TX. She created the script with my new record Hollywood Blvd in mind. However, the story became all too real – as it predicted the very struggles the team has endured during pre-production. I was suppose to fly out tomorrow and begin production this weekend, but now I will quarantine in real life instead. The story centers around Sadie- an artist embarking on her first big masterpiece, only to have it stopped by a virus. We never dreamed we would have the same fears going into production as the characters in the film- fears for your health & ultimately for survival.”
Vince Cuneo of Movie Club told us that his band’s record release show, scheduled for the end of the month, had to be cancelled but they have a plan in place.
“Thankfully we had been planning a global live stream release with Roland before everything went down. On our end, we are pushing through with the power of creativity and sharing our new music we worked so hard on. Roland is also trying to keep supporting artists even though everyone’s tours are postponed or cancelled. We have to keep working together with the fellow music community, while also creating & sharing music how we can.”
Azalia Snail of pop & roll band LoveyDove told us that, “Luckily Dan (West) has been arranging/composing at home, but just found out yesterday that a big Capitol Records gig he had is gone. Our monthly DJ gig Instant Joy! is on hiatus at Broken Shaker rooftop at The Freehand, but we’ll continue to do our new podcast on KOWS radio as part of their Saturday night show The Summit. Otherwise we’re lucky we have a small studio in our garage, and will keep working on our new LoveyDove album plus projects with our songwriting students including Frieda’s Roses, Mystery Rose and Lexx and The Roadzies. Let’s all spread the love and not the germs!”
Mau5trap DJ Rinzen emailed us to say, “It’s a strange time to be an artist. Within one week, all of our upcoming gigs for the next two months were essentially cancelled. It’s hard to take it personally though. We’re all suffering from this and many have it worse off than us.”
Chip Kinman, formerly of old school punks the Dils, said that he’s using the time to finish recording a new album, and Frank Meyer of rock & rollers the Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs concurred:
“The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs had a few gigs get cancelled, so we’ll be focusing on finishing new recordings while the live scene is on lockdown. I’m working from home the next few weeks too, and all the bars and clubs are closed, so not much to do socially. Gonna hang with my kid, who is off school for a month now, and work on new songs in GarageBand. Might as well be creative during these strange times.”
Outside of L.A., roots singer and songwriter James McMurtry said, “I’m not sure how to really deal with suddenly being out of work in an industry where one’s livelihood is dependent on both travel and public gatherings, two activities we suddenly have to curtail. It’s the perfect storm for us. I’m very fortunate that I’m old and have been doing this for over thirty years and, in that time, I’ve worked mostly with good people, some of whom I still get to work with. One of those good people is a rock & roll accountant who has struggled mightily to keep me solvent and has even managed to put a little of my money away, so I might actually weather this storm. Most musicians aren’t so lucky. To get back to work, and insure that we can keep working, we’ll have to innovate. We will have to figure out an online format through which we can get paid well for live online performance. Michael Nesmith used to have a show called Videoranch, a virtual venue with live bands. I played it twice and it was a blast. We played in a green screen animation studio with an animated set. Subscribers logged in and created avatars for themselves which could interact and communicate via chat. We could see the avatars on a screen in front of us, with a chat screen above. My drummer kept losing his place from being absorbed in reading the chat. I don’t think Michael is doing that show anymore, but he should. He’s brilliant, his ideas are usually ten years or so ahead of their time. They say he invented the concept that eventually manifested itself in MTV. We need you Nez.”
More stories as we get them but for now, keep safe everyone. If you’re able, buy some music online from a local musician.