Can The Internet Fill In For Lost Gigs?
When businesses were asked to comply to COVID-19’s restrictions in the drop of a hat, the internet was primed and ready to safely let people order food, watch a movie or buy a new pair of shoes. The tool allowing this happens to be the very one that devalued recorded music at the turn of the century, forcing musicians to place all their bets on performing.
The performance opportunities for artists have taken a new shape in recent months, testing the market with various methods of consuming performances online. Coming in at a high supply and often no cost, the online gig scene is not one someone could live off. For artist and fan alike, can the internet step up to the occasion?
Connor Brooker (Bugs): “I don’t really think you can capture the importance of it with content or live streaming, it doesn’t have the same connection. It does a job to satiate the appetite and can certainly hold a valuable place but at the same time it is a substitute – one we are very fortunate to have available to us.”
Considering the live sector may not actually return until 2021 or so, it is distressing to find the cultural and financial backbone of the industry is indefinitely on vague terms. Putting out a record is still possible, but with low royalties, it can make the venture unviable if there isn’t a tour to help it break even.
Mel Tickle (Holiday Party): “Live performance is absolutely critical to promoting music. We had a tri-state tour planned to promote our first album this year, but we’re now working out how we can release it without going on the road. It has a huge run-on effect for everyone, as you can’t see a band live and buy their merch and records after a great show.”
Alex Lahey: “I think one of the things we’ve learned from these past couple of months is that although live performance is only one of many critical parts that makes up the promotional cycle of releasing music (including PR, distribution, marketing, social media and the actual quality of the music), it is disproportionately the largest stream of income for most active artists.”
Alex Lahey has been keeping busy in isolation and teasing new music, yet she questions how the industry will compete with itself in the future, stating it will be “interesting to see if there is a shift in how artists generate and retain income once touring is back on the cards”.
“One of the things I fear about this period coming to a close is the inevitable ‘catch up’ that is going to happen as a result of artists pushing back releases and/or touring schedules. I would love to know how artists who are going into a record cycle are going to be able to be heard in what is going to be an unprecedented high volume of releases and touring during a time when the economy is predicted to be in a bad way. I have a feeling that the fallout of this pandemic is going to have a bigger and longer impact on the music community than anticipated and we need to start working out how we can prop up the music community during that time,” says Lahey.
While the community is yet to find a clear way out of the crisis, artists aren’t sitting around to wait out the storm – they’re chasing it. On playing the weekly online festival Isol-Aid, James of WAAX claims the band felt “the same pre-gig nerves as well as the post-gig euphoria” during the make-do set for their Big Grief national tour (rescheduled for Oct/Nov with Bugs and Semantics).
James Gatling (WAAX): “We have had to try different approaches and more roundabout ways to work. Instead of being in a rehearsal room and playing off each other, there is a lot of sending of voice memos and collaborating over the internet.”
WAAX have been particularly inspired to use the internet in unfamiliar ways by acts such as Adelaide duo TOWNS, who recently wrote a song together via live stream whilst taking suggestions from viewers.
TOWNS: “Writing a song on a livestream seemed like a stupid amount of pressure, but it gave us the opportunity to practice what we preach in ourselves, when we’re alone we’re so overly critical, but we always tell people to love their art and themselves, so we had no walls to hide behind and just made choices as soon as felt them connect with us or someone watching and we now have a genuinely cool as hell song as a product of this whole week!”
Writing a song or playing a set may not be inherently impressive for another musician, but it’s undoubtedly important to see others carrying on with their jobs and adapting to these uncertain conditions as best as they can. Lachlan Avis, formerly of Storm The Sky, vows to do everything in his power to get his new electropop moniker Lakelend performing live. Lachlan was happy to see his fellow metal-turned-pop Melbournite Running Touch perform for Room Service Festival, which raised over 135,000USD for charity.
Lakelend: “I think a lot of my inspiration recently has come from other artists that I look up to and how they are dealing with isolation, being separated from their friends and family as well as how they have been keeping happy and healthy.”
As we see more and more musicians bend the internet to their will, now is the time to test new approaches to the online music market. Asking what artists would do with endless resources for their own virtual gig or festival, James of WAAX claims vocalist Maz would want U2 to headline their set with proper stage production like the golden days of yesteryear. Others dreamt in different colours altogether.
Mel Tickle (Holiday Party): “I’d want to mail everyone something prior to the show, maybe like a Holiday Party Kit with an inflatable palm tree, banana lounge, michelada kit, great headphones, streamers. And we’d perform beside a pool somewhere with heaps of props.”
Alex Lahey: “It would be a Sleep No More style VR experience, where different artists of all mediums would be playing/performing/creating in different rooms of a remote studio complex in whatever format they wish and the attendee has to ‘choose their own adventure’.”
While a virtual reality music RPG will no doubt be the irresistible Holiday 2020 gift (pre-order now for bonus Holiday Party avatars), a craving for the real thing will always take precedence over any alternative, be it ways we have or are yet to create.
DVNA: “I think as isolation continues, the more everyone is beginning to realise how much they miss live music and how important it is in bringing people together. There’s a feeling of unity in a crowd of people. It’s quite emotional and overwhelming sharing a love and adoration for artists/ music with 1000 other people. It’s powerful. The internet can only carry us so far before we start to crave human connection again.”
Perfect Moment: “I miss trudging through autumn leaves on a crisp Melbourne evening with a podcast on. Taking the earbuds out just as I enter the band room to be immediately transported into a world sound and colour. Nothing compares.”
As we all yearn to walk into a loud venue again, the internet still has its perks. Listening local, buying from Bandcamp or having a chat on a live stream – it all helps keep the spirits high for everyone itching to get back to it.
Connor Brooker (Bugs): “Small things like replying to messages and tags on the internet, personalising merch orders with a note, getting back to all the kids who have asked you for tutorials on how to play your songs. Tabbing them for guitar heads, writing out your lyrics to satiate people’s curiosity when they think ‘what does he say there’ – heaps of small things you can do to maintain relevance and more importantly make a positive difference in someone’s day. Just remember, a lot of people are in the same shitty boat at the moment – it doesn’t take much to be nice and try to make someones feel good. We all need it right now.”
Find the artists below:
‘Half Past Sober‘
‘FU Live/Pool Party‘
‘Sucker For Punishment‘
|Perfect Moment (fka Oh Mercy)
‘Time & Date NY‘