Chris Koney column : Musicians head online as COVID-19 puts live shows on pause


“It’s a way to bring money in,” says the Metronomy bassist, Olugbenga Adelekan, who is preparing to give an online lesson from his home studio. “It’s not going to be loads of money because I’ve said to people it’s pay what you can afford, but at least it’s a way to combat the looming spectre of full isolation.”

The Brighton band Metronomy were supposed to be playing sold-out dates in Portugal, Spain and France at the start of their European tour when the COVID-19 outbreak meant all their shows were cancelled. This week, instead of taking to the stage in Madrid, Adelekan has started giving online tutorials in bass and music production.

After announcing the lessons on Instagram, Adelekan has got more than a dozen confirmed bookings and he is joining a growing number of acts who are using social media to continue their careers now coronavirus has put their plans on pause.

This week, Neil Young, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Keith Urban and pop-punk act Yungblud have all put on or promised impromptu online performances as most major concerts, festivals and gigs are cancelled until at least after the summer.

Martin played a 30-minute set on Instagram Live for fans while using the #TogetherAtHome hashtag and encouraged peers to do the same. John Legend and Charlie Puth both performed at-home streaming concerts as did Pink, Charli XCX, Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus.

It’s a trend that looks likely to continue as long as the crisis does with more coronavirus concerts planned until the end of the month. Erykah Badu announced the “Apocalypse One: live interactive experiment from badubotron” gig, which will take place on the neo-soul star’s Instagram account on Friday.

Young announced a series of streaming gigs called the Fireside Sessions that will be recorded in his home by his wife, Daryl Hannah and be available on the Neil Young Archives website. “Because we are all at home and not many are venturing out, we will try to do a stream from my fireplace with my lovely wife filming,” a statement read. “It will be a down-home production, a few songs, a little time together.”

Christine and the Queens began performing live shows from a recording studio in Paris and will continue the ad hoc sessions online. “Why not meet everyday at 6pm EST on my Instagram? I’ll find a way to deal with the ennui,” she wrote in an Instagram post.

More traditional cultural channels also shifted towards the at-home model. Jonty Claypole, the director of BBC Arts, said the broadcaster needed to give “British culture an audience that can’t be there in person” when announcing forthcoming culture content. He promised guides to exhibitions or permanent collections in museums and galleries which are now closed; performances from musicians and comedians; and new plays created especially for broadcast.

The DJ said the impact would be “cataclysmic” for him and his DJing partner Jonnie Wilkes – who play together as Optimo – because about 90 percent of their income comes through touring and gigging. He said: “I’ll have no income whatsoever now. Some of our record labels bring in a tiny bit of money or I might get the odd sound design job but really it’s touring that pays the bills.”

Adelekan said his band have had to discuss the financial implications of missing the entire summer festival circuit, which for many acts is the most lucrative period of any year or album cycle. “It’s highlighted quite a glaring thing that is missing in our society: a safety net for people who work in the creative industry,” says Adelekan.

“People like going out to restaurants, people go to pubs and music festivals but the people who work in those worlds have a precarious life. Most people have a month before they’re in serious financial trouble.”

Other acts used working from home as a way to stay creative. The Scottish DJ Keith McIvor AKA JD Twitch has put out free online “tranquillity mixes” designed to create calming background music for those in self-isolation or working from home for the foreseeable future. McIvor said the mixes, which include songs by the pianist Erik Satie and German ambient group Popol Vuh, will keep him busy as gigs disappear overnight.



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