With the latest Life during quarantine playlist Nick Triani contemplates the live music scene and how it survives these pandemic times.
Earlier this week I was on a bike ride – it’s been a daily feature since lockdown – when I met an associate who works in the music industry. During our conversation he suggested to me that Covid-19 had caused his business to already lose hundreds of thousands of euros from past and future earnings. It’s been a familiar story with other music industry people I’ve spoken to, the ‘new normal’ during pandemic promises harsh and horrific consequences for all aspects of the music industry. Invariably it will be the marginalised, smaller artists and companies that face the toughest scenarios. The live music scene, venues and concert promoters especially, seem to be facing an uncertain future.
The UK music industry this week launched #LetTheMusicPlay – an initiative to help the live UK music scene survive during these coronavirus times – Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Ed Sheeran, FKA Twigs and many other luminaries of the UK scene appealed to the UK Government to supply a financial package to aid the ailing UK live industry and a plan on when venues can reopen. So far the initiative hasn’t yielded results, only acknowledgement.
In a broader sense the Finnish government has been financially supportive of the arts in general – at least in line with the current grant systems that are in place. There is a donation scheme in place called Anna Sen Soida (Let it Play.) Perhaps it will take more well known voices from music to remind people here that a big part of the eco-system of pop music is under threat and may not survive these times.
This week’s playlist includes a couple of tracks by artists I used to go and see live a lot many years ago in the UK. When both of The Woodentops and James arrived on the live scene, their on-stage reputations far outstripped their recorded reputations. The Woodentops were first seen as a band to follow The Smiths and be the next big thing from Rough Trade Records. Didn’t quite happen that way, though some of the early singles – ‘Move Me’ being a great example – captures that early, percussion heavy live excitement which singled them out as a band of great promise.
James used to be an angular and interesting band before they opted for the stadium sound that bought success later in their career. Initially on Manchester’s Factory Records, I caught the band a few times as their early couple of singles established the band as another who could challenge The Smiths for their then indie crown (ambitions were so much simpler back then). James initially appeared at a similar time to The Smiths, yet their release strategy held them back. As it was, James’ live shows were jaw dropping exercises in energy and violence with limited means and a licence to improvise, their songs perfectly executed in new ways at each show.
The best of the medium and unrecognised perhaps, but essential in forming the fabric of my own enjoyment of live music. That live connection with an audience, radically different to the listening experience of recorded music, is the stepping stone that informs the wider world of so many artists worth. It’s important we keep the opportunity of such live discovery alive.
Nick Triani is an editor and contributor to One Quart Magazine