How To Support Your Local Artist During Self-Isolation

Altho we’ve been secretly hoping that the government will reset the simulation in time for the weekend, it’s looking like we might be in some form of self-isolation for the long haul. According to experts, we might not be able to go outside like we used to till sometime next year, international travel or go on actual proper holidays out of the country until 2023.

And, while confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Australia per day have declined exponentially, and we, as of writing, only have roughly 7000 confirmed cases when the U.S. has over 1.5 million and counting, it’s not likely we’ll be able to see some of our favourite international artists in the flesh, combine our bodily fluids, heat and sweat in mosh pits and dance. Even if Prime Minister Scott Morrison plans for club and social venues to reopen by August…

But, what if you could still see your fave artists perform live from your car window? Would you be willing to sacrifice all that comfort, space and dance vibes that come from being surrounded in a crowd at a gig all for some live sick tunes?

Perhaps, the future of live music is drive through

According to ABC, earlier this month, Danish singer-songwriter Mads Langer performed to an audience of people in their cars. People raised their hands out of their car windows and swayed them at his slow jams, got snacks and drinks from staff in hazmat suits and, between each song, applauded him not with cheers and drunken clapping or laughter but with beeps and honks.

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We did it ❤️🎶

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“At first, it felt extremely awkward,” Langer told triple j. “I realised on-stage that I was performing to four people times 500, rather than 2,000 people.”

To make the performance more personal, Langer invited people in their cars to join him in a Zoom conference call that was projected on the big screen. In it, he and the 500 groups of four people watching him from their Hot Wheels rides talked about how they’re coping with the pandemic and how it’s affected them and words of encouragement to each other.

Having your face projected onto a gigantic screen to two thousand people is a bit anxiety inducing (ok, very anxiety inducing), but it’s a wholesome and cute gesture nonetheless.

We recently trialled our own version of this in Australia with a Casey Donovan concert in Sydney, meaning that we could see more of them in the future.

I mean, just imagine the crowd actually beeping to Charli XCX’s “Vroom Vroom,” wiping their windows to the 12 new slapworthy tracks on Carly Rae Jepsen’s Dedicated Side B album, or honking it to Beyoncé’s remix of Meghan Thee Stallion’s “Savage.” Sure, it may very well be “the blue balls of concerts,” but look, right now, it’s all we got.

With an international pandemic, bushfires, aliens, fancams of North Korea dictators, and talk of a parallel universe—all in just the first five months of 2020—this year has truly been a lot and the idea of seeing my faves in a drive through concert with three to four of my friends is… not even that wild anymore. The simulation is broken. Someone set the difficulty to brutally hard and forget to ever turn it off. Truly, anything is possible. Even, I guess, this.

That said, due to international travel restrictions, don’t expect to see international superstars (like the ones mentioned above, lol) perform in this kinda space down under anytime soon. It’s more likely we’ll see local acts and national talent tbh.

How has Covid-19 affected the music industry?

When Covid-19 first hit Australia, the first to go was entertainment

And, while that may be all good when we have Animal Crossing, memes and, for some of us, the option to work or study from home, for those in the entertainment industry, that uncertainty means months of indefinite unemployment

After all, concerts are definitely not allowed under the new lockdown rules. 

So, in the era of Covid-19 and self-isolation, what happens to our favourite artists and the future of gig culture? How can we help? And what will the industry look like on the other side of all this?

To slow the spread of Covid-19, and so our medical facilities aren’t overwhelmed, the government put a nation-wide ban on large social gatherings.

That first started with some of our country’s internationally regarded events like Vivid, Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival and the Sydney Film Festival. Then, artists performing to audiences and in theatres large and small started cancelling and indefinitely postponing their shows. 

Now, artists around the world are postponing all of their tours for the next six months, in an effort advised by the federal government  to help fight the spread of infection. But, understandably, that’s taken a huge toll on everyone involved in the industry.

According to I Lost My Gig Australia and as of 21st March, the Covid-19 pandemic has cost the arts and entertainment industry a whopping $300 million. Thousands of Australians, from artists and production to prop designers and hospitality workers and others are out of work, indefinitely.

“Before the Covid-19 [pandemic] arrived, I was getting by pretty well for a performer,” Aussie queer pop singer and fashion king Brendan Maclean tells Syrup. “Between my semi-regular gigs, corporate shows and some pocket money from the odd acting gig, things felt stable.”

“Now I’m packing my bags to move in with my family. I’ve spent my days either filling out government forms to collect unemployment or, with blind hope, organising streaming events like Create Or Die.”

And, with no one knowing when Sunday’s lockdown will lift in the future, it’s adding a whole new layer of stress to artists on a daily process.

“It’s so hard to even think about the idea of the lockdown lifting,” shares Maclean. “For now, it’s just a day at a time. Can I add something to my Bandcamp? Can I finish that 90 percent done song and get it up on Patreon? It’s all that immediate reaction stuff… “

How can I support my favourite local artists?

According to Astral People, a two-person management company behind Cosmo’s Midnight, Basenji, Stormzy’s Aussie tour and other artists’ events in Australia, there’s a number of things we can do right now. In fact, without even realising it, you probably already are helping in one way or another.

While, as Maclean puts it, “merchandise and ticket sales were the last bastion of cash for artists,” streaming your favourite local artists’ music, making playlists and sharing them with your friends and family are simple and cost effective ways to help raise awareness of artists who don’t often get top 40 mainstream radio recognition. 

“More than ever, if you like an artist you should brag about it,” pleads Maclean. “Follow us from your friends’ Spotify, gift our merchandise on Bandcamp, use our songs in your hilarious TikToks.”

If you can afford it, you can support artists by buying their merch and choosing to keep your concert tickets instead of asking for a refund. 

And, if you want to make actual change to the invisible people in the industry, you can donate to crisis relief organisations like Support Act, a local charity that aims to financially support music workers impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and, ofc, I Lost My Gig Australia, an initiative where artists who have lost their gigs can turn to for financial and emotional support. 

The future of live music is online

With live events no longer an option, the arts and entertainment industry has had to find new ways to sustain itself and continue doing what it does best. As MacLean sees it, “on a world scale, you’re likely to see a bunch more experimental marketing around gigs and music to generate income.”

That means, “more focus on documentaries released before albums, in studio interaction, all that not really anything to do with the music garbage. Oh, and going live. Everyone endlessly is going live for the next few months.”

And, in fact, we’ve started seeing just that. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen the world’s first digital drag night on Twitch; a series of live stream conversations with Charli XCX and her friends and creative collaborators Christine and the Queens, Rita Ora and others; and Orville Peck produce a mini concert ft Facetime cameos of his friends, all from the comfort of their self-isolated surroundings. 

(Side note: for those sad that museums and galleries are temporarily closing, White Rabbit Gallery has a series of virtual tours of some of its best exhibits.)

And, locally, there’s Create Or Die, a Sydney-based arts organisation that’s launching a series of digital initiatives to support local artists of various mediums. From their social distancing-approved studio in Sydney’s inner-west, they’re hosting spoken word and stand up comedy events like Loose Letter Literature, art programs, industry talks and musical performers like Brendan Maclean and Rackett. 

If you can think of a subculture within the arts and entertainment industry in Australia, there’s a high chance Create Or Die is trying to find a way to represent them. And, in a world where we don’t know when we’ll next get to see our faves up-close and in person, we love to see it. 

Digital shows have been very much on the up before Coronavirus, but as Maclean sees it, if we really are in isolation for another three to six months, we’re about to witness a digital show revolution.

“At the moment, it’s a lot of InstagramTV or recording live from your MacBook, and that will probably change once we all figure out the basics,” he says. “I imagine as a collective we’ll up our audio, staging, lighting game, and you’ll probably find it more common to find more live streaming shows with tipping services or Only Fans and Cameo style subscriptions.”

“I applied for a festival that would happen over New Years, but it’s been difficult putting on a brave face about it all,” Maclean adds, thinking of the future. “Luckily there has been a lot of tenderness in the music community; space to grieve over this magic thing we seem to have lost.”

And, at the end of the day, right now, the whole world is stuck inside making playlists, returning to their favourite movies, reading a book that gives them comfort. Arts and entertainment will always have a place in society, we just need to support them.

Julian Rizzo-Smith is a writer and producer. He also claims to be a vine historian, avid connoisseur of low-fi beats, indie hip hop and Kermit memes. In a perfect world, he’d be married to Tyler the Creator, own an Arcanine and a Lapras, and don his own Sailor Scouts uniform. He tweets @GayWeebDisaster, which is also, coincidentally, how one might describe him.

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