How To Support Australia’s Music Industry During The Coronavirus Crisis
The local music industry is in free fall - but there are things you can do to help.
In the space of a few short weeks, coronavirus has decimated the touring industry.
Most of the biggest festivals on the international calendar have been pulled or delayed. Coachella has been pushed back to the end of this year. Download Festival, which was to be headlined by emo heroes My Chemical Romance, has been cancelled entirely. Live Nation, one of the biggest touring companies on the planet, has suspended all arena tours.
The dominos have fallen quickly, and it’s not clear when they’ll stop. Most touring companies seem to assume that things will be back to normal by October. But that’s only an assumption, and will depend entirely on how quickly most countries can introduce social distancing, and how soft borders will be after the pandemic slows down.
Which is devastating for lots of reasons, of course — both financially, and in the interest of public health.
Musicians Are Vulnerable
The music industry is in a particularly vulnerable when it comes to that devastation. Over the last few years, the industry model has shifted away from album sales and towards touring.
In the past, bands would make all of their money from selling physical copies of their records. These days, with streaming the dominant way that the public consume music, that money comes from live shows and in-person merch sales. Spotify streams pay a pittance. Tickets to a tour, plus in-real-life sales of merchandise, pay more.
Of course, tours cost a lot of money, meaning that the touring model is only a profitable one for big, chart-topping musicians. If you’re a young creative making a name for yourself, tours barely make you anything like real profits. Saddling the costs of transport, accomodation and the movement of your gear means you just about squeak by — if you squeak by at all.
In that way, for many musicians on the planet, coronavirus has turned a just-about-tenable way of living into an impossible folly.
Which is why musicians need us more than ever.
What Can We Do To Help Musicians With Tours Cancelled Due To Coronavirus?
Last week, musician Torres — real name Mackenzie Scott — was on tour through Europe when Donald Trump announced a travel ban. Scott and her band had 24 hours to arrange flights out of Europe and back home. On Twitter, the singer-songwriter made it clear that the sudden change in plans would make the tour unprofitable.
“I’m going to lose every penny I made on tour booking emergency flights for my band,” Scott wrote.
I’m asking for help getting home, guys. I’m going to lose every penny I made on tour booking emergency flights for my band. Thank you in advance. I’ve never experienced anything like this. Please be well everyone Xxhttps://t.co/9qmW79IKEv
— TORRES (@torreslovesyou) March 12, 2020
It’s not just that immediate, short-term loss, either. It’s the potential for ongoing disruption to the way that the music industry works. How can you recoup the money lost on an aborted tour when future tours are at risk?
Quickly, Scott posted a link to her Patreon, her Venmo, and her PayPal. Fans rushed to help. And in that way, the musician indicated the pressing need for us to support our at-risk artists.
To everyone who has helped: I will never be able to thank you enough. You are the epitome of loving kindness. For those who’ve asked for updates, the band and I are not home yet but are hoping to be by Saturday afternoon. Thank you again for your support and messages. ♥️MRS
— TORRES (@torreslovesyou) March 13, 2020
Venmo and PayPal are direct means of financial support, requiring the musicians in question to share their payment details. But if you’re in a position to help, you don’t have to wait for a musician to ask.
Instead of streaming your favourite indie album on Spotify, why not consider buying the record outright through Bandcamp? Bandcamp give money “directly and instantly” to bands, as Sarah Thompson of Camp Cope pointed out on Twitter. You get the music, and the band in question get real financial support.
🚨 BANDCAMP WILL GIVE MONEY DIRECTLY AND INSTANTLY TO BANDS, SPOTIFY PAY OUT THEIR 2 CENTS EVERY FEW MONTHS 🚨
— Sarah Thompson (@slthomthom) March 13, 2020
Then there’s Patreon. Patreon takes a cut of any money that you give to artists, which is something of a downside, but the money is regular, meaning that bands and musicians can depend on it. Setting up a regular donation to a band on Patreon — even a relatively small one — is a way of providing an artist with something like a safety net.
Musician Weyes Blood, who has just finished up her own tour of Australia, put it best on her Instagram. “Keep us in your hearts,” she wrote. “Buy people’s records and merch! Bands promote their music and make most of their income from touring.
“Remember to escape the modernity hellscape by listening to new music coming out right now — my heart really goes out to people putting out records at this time who would love to be heard.”
Understand The Extent of the Devastation
It’s easy to do only a little research, and to assume that the extent of the harm done to the music industry is way less than it actually is. In turn, having a false sense of the problem will lead to it not being taken seriously.
The entertainment industry is trying to get a handle on how much work has been lost – https://t.co/bhdZ5LhOUO – so many people are going to find it tough. This is a start to at least get the data .. please retweet for them https://t.co/t6b4M5H6uK
— Lisa Millar (@LisaMillar) March 16, 2020
So instead, head over to I Lost My Gig, a website which tallies the amount of revenue stripped from the industry. At the moment, at least $100 million has been wiped from the Australian arts scene.
That makes this a serious problem, and it’s time we start trying to do something about it.
Bandcamp Are Pitching In Too
Those looking to help artists by purchasing records through their Bandcamp are in a good spot this week — this Friday, the site is completely waiving the revenue that gets taken out of the artist’s check.
That means that every cent that you pay goes directly to the musician in question. So, get yourself a good, curated wishlist going, and then get to supporting some of your favourite musicians.
Donate To Support Act
Support Act is a charity dedicated to helping those in the music industry, from musicians to roadies and everyone in-between, with a focus on promoting good mental health. That makes it a deeply important charity in these isolated and distressing times, where people are cut off from their usual means of support, and are feeling alone and scared.
The charity has set up a special drive just to deal with the coronavirus crisis, and you can choose where your money goes to when you donate it.
Make Informed Decisions About Which Musicians You Support
Obviously, it’s up to you which bands that you want to support, if you’re in a position to do so at all. But always remember to make an informed decision about where your money goes.
The bigger the band is, the more that they’ll have saved up in the kitty, and the less that they’ll need your support. The really vulnerable bands are emerging or stridently independent ones.
Maybe, if you have some time, do some digging, and work out where your cents can be best spent. You won’t regret it. After all, the music industry is, at the end of the day, a human industry. And giving back to people is a way to feel connected and centred during difficult times.
Joseph Earp is a staff writer at Junkee. He tweets @Joseph_O_Earp.