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Mix Blog Studio: The Spigot Turns Off

The pandemic and the adoption of social distancing measures has hit the music industry hard, and the uncertainties about when, how and even if touring and live performance will return to some sense of normal has artists looking for new ways to engage their audiences. Will these new methods remain after the fog clears?

Without question, the impact of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing has proven disastrous for those who work in the music business. It’s particularly bad if you make a large chunk of your income from live performance, whether you’re a musician or a crew member.

Right now, any type of in-person live performance is on indefinite hold. And let’s be honest, in the era of Spotify and Apple Music, when album sales (except for vinyl) are no longer a viable income stream, live performance, particularly of the touring variety, has been the main moneymaker for working musicians. With that spigot turned off, it’s tough.

Sure, people can buy merch from your website, but it isn’t likely you’ll get the kind of impulse buys of hats, t-shirts and vinyl that often take place at a show.

Read more Mix Blog Studio: Getting the Band Back Together (Sort Of).

A solution I’ve noticed from some musicians is to offer fans paid memberships that bring extra perks and access. While that could certainly be helpful, particularly if you have a lot of devoted fans, it’s hard to imagine that could make up for the loss of ticket sales and merch.

Many experts predict a “new normal” where social distancing remains in place. If so, the chances for a revival in live music, at least until the development of a vaccine, are quite slim.

Until this pandemic, much of the live music aimed at fans under about 40 years old was experienced in venues where everyone was standing up and squashed together with virtually no space between them. I wonder if that form of show is ever going to return? If not, what will replace it?

Will there be new venues with smaller capacities and new ways to enforce social distancing? Or might most live shows be ticketed, but online-only?

Perhaps there will be a combination of both concepts. If you want to see a show live, you pay a premium for tickets to the smaller-capacity venue, and everyone else buys a ticket to watch the show online. I’d like to see virtual reality brought into the equation, allowing audience members to feel like they’re at a live show when they’re still safely at home.

In the meantime, if you’re locked down and you have a studio, there are some silver linings beyond just having more time to work on projects. Many software companies are offering significant discounts during this period. If you can swing it financially, now is an excellent time to stock up on music production plug-ins and applications. If you sign up for newsletters from various developers, you’ll hear about the deals when they happen.

Also, some music gear manufacturers, software developers and video tutorial companies have stepped up and are providing free content online, much of it in the form of tutorial webinars. I’ve noticed such content from Shure, Genelec, pureMix, Waves, Eventide, Sonnox and Slate Digital, and I’m sure there are many, many others.

Everybody stay safe! Stay sane! Make music!