Ever since the first lockdowns began in March 2020, our lives were completely turned upside down. Even now, after more than one year, our current reality is still so different from the Pre-Corona times. One of the only things that remained unchanged by the pandemic was music, as to this day it continues to be a constant in our daily lives. From the moment our alarms make us jump off the bed, to when we do the dishes with a funky soundtrack, or when a lullaby sings us to sleep, music remains the same, even in these dark and strange days. Well, our bond with music and the effect it can have on us have stayed the same. However, the music industry – from the way songs are created to how they enter our hearts – has changed for sure.
Performances & Concerts
The first (and most obvious) thing that was impacted by the pandemic was the artists’ ability to perform live in front of fans. Apart from the lucky New Zealand, concerts are impossible anywhere as of now, and the situation is not likely to get better anytime soon.
However, a few artists have been seeking ways to feel closer to fans without putting them in danger of COVID-19 exposure, by finding safe alternatives to live shows – online concerts. Online concerts are exactly what they advertise – performances that fans can watch live on their devices via platforms such as YouTube or V LIVE. Sure, they will never replace the thrilling experience you get from in-person concerts, but online shows do have their merits.
For starters, they are obviously way cheaper, as the ticket price usually ranges between €25 and €50, while tickets for in-person shows can sometimes go for hundreds – even thousands! – of euros. Moreover, online concerts have the perk of bringing in an audience way bigger than any in-person show would. That is because there’s no restriction imposed by the venue capacity, and fans don’t have to physically travel to the location, which represents a huge advantage for those who cannot afford to do so. Furthermore, in-person concerts may be an issue for those fans not comfortable with large crowds – online, they can watch the performance without any worry.
There’s no doubt in saying that online concerts do not give you the same experience as in-person ones, but for now, they are the best – and safest – alternative.
Meet & Greets
Another experience impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions was Meet & Greets. For anyone who might not know, Meet & Greets – or fansigns – are events organized by artists for them to meet up with fans. Obviously, usually not for free. However, given the fact that in order to minimize the spread of the virus human contact is strictly unadvised, such gatherings were rendered impossible. Thus, artists tried to find a safe substitute for the time being.
Some artists began to be more active on social media which offer live streaming services, such as Instagram, YouTube, or V LIVE. In fact, Instagram Live video streaming witnessed a 70% increase in viewership ever since the first months of the pandemic.
It allows fans to still be able to communicate one-on-one with idols, whilst respecting ‘no-touching’ COVID-19 safety measures.
Nevertheless, some artists began to offer online fansigns – or fancalls – as well. Fancalls take the idea of having a private conversation between fan and artist from Meet & Greets, and turn it into an engaging hi-tech experience. They are basically FaceTime calls, only they are timed and you need a few bucks to enter. This new form of artist-fan interaction is especially popular in Kpop, given the industry-wide reliance on fanservice. It allows fans to still be able to communicate one-on-one with idols, whilst respecting ‘no-touching’ COVID-19 safety measures. Moreover, since fans don’t have to be physically there to partake in such events, it gives more people from all around the world a chance to interact with their favorite idols.
Just like all things in the world, music is a product of creative collaboration. All the songs we listen to and love are a result of songwriters, singers, producers, and sound technicians coming together in a studio and making magic.
However, the pandemic obviously made that nearly impossible. In-person sessions are not allowed anymore, and many artists have stated how that affected their creative process. The spontaneity that comes with meeting face-to-face to discuss lyrics or melodies can hardly be replicated via Zoom or FaceTime, no matter how good your internet connection is. Nonetheless, that’s how it has to be for now. For example, many record labels have been setting up online songwriting camps and sessions with producers from all around the world, to see if the same magic can happen from behind a computer screen. Thus far, it has proven to be successful, but it is undeniable that it chipped something away from the usual eureka moments.
Nevertheless, the problems do not end even after the song is fully recorded. In the era of social distancing, producing a high-quality music video is more challenging than ever. Normally, performers, directors, and a full crew are brought together to create artistic scenes for the camera, but right now that represents too much of a danger. Hence, artists are focusing on minimizing the risks by reducing the number of people on set – fewer actors, no hairstylist, no makeup artist, etc. Furthermore, CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery, i.e. application of computer graphics to the creation of visual art) has become extremely handy right now, as the people and scenery needed can be constructed in a studio without breaking any COVID-19 rules. A perfect example of this approach is the music video for Cardigan by Taylor Swift – she was almost the only one on set, did her own makeup and hair, and the scenes shown in the video were computer-generated. No one was put in any danger of exposure, and the music video still turned out amazing!
Streaming has also been largely impacted by the pandemic. In the weeks immediately following the first lockdowns in March 2020, streaming consumption suffered a dramatic drop between 15% and 20%. However, this is understandable given the restrictions set in place due to the pandemic – as people were forced to stay home, key music listening situations were removed, such as daily commute.
Nevertheless, these numbers quickly changed, as the forced confinement made people crave and cherish music even more. In fact, a study conducted by market research company OnePoll, found that most people reported music as their No. 1 way to cope with stressful situations. And what’s more stressful than being stuck at home because of a global pandemic? Of the 2000 people surveyed by the researchers, 80% stated that music helped them get through quarantine, and 64.2% said watching online live performances helped them feel connected to others. Thus, streaming numbers went up once again after the first stumbling months.
Only one thing has been able to remain a constant key factor – people’s love for music.
After all, the music industry will continue to change, just like it always did. From the introduction of song recording, to the switch from physical to digital consumption of music, the musical landscape has continually been in motion. Yet, only one thing has been able to remain a constant key factor – people’s love for music. Whether we are apart or together, and no matter the circumstances of the world, our favorite songs will always be there to get us through those tough days until better ones come along. That’s just the power of music.
Edited by: Younes Skalli