Every morning this week I’ve opened my laptop and voraciously scanned the headlines, wanting to get ahead of the curve to fully understand what was going on. Not only regarding the virus, but also its effects… the cancellations. By the time you read this, things will have no doubt escalated.
I’ll admit: I’m having a hard time seeing through the mess. I am witnessing the ripples from this situation extend outwards to unthinkable places. Cities on lockdown, cancelled festivals and large gatherings. The question I keep asking myself is, what do we do when we can’t gather?
Especially for those of us who work in the event production, music, art and festival worlds. Performers, promoters, technical directors, et cetera. You, me, our friends, our peers across the planet. I make money through the “gig economy,” which is the Hudson Valley in a nutshell. Most jobs around Hudson, where I live, revolve around food, nightlife, retail, cultural events, tourism and weddings. When I don’t have money, I find another gig. Except, that strategy doesn’t work right now.
“During previous economic downturns, shared consumption of pop culture — going to the movies, seeing a concert — has often been viewed as recession-proof. That’s not the case with COVID-19,” says Variety magazine. So what do we do? The following suggestions are small, and will not help in any real economic way (hopefully NY state will help with that…), but it might help us all maintain our mental health.
Well, for one — limit your news and social media intake. I have been in a fog for a couple days, constantly reading, and the only thing it’s really done for me is make me severely depressed. Use a social media timer app!
In lieu of all those shows you can’t go to, discover music on Bandcamp, and then buy it. If you can’t afford cassette tapes or limited edition vinyl, you can buy people’s lossless digital tracks for cheap — like, $1 — and they see most of that money, unlike streaming services.
If you’re a creator, use your newly available free time to make a Patreon page. Maybe don’t unleash it just yet (tone deaf timing), but take this moment to test some things out. See what you’re capable of offering to people.
If you’re a performer and/or like to throw parties, consider doing a weird webcast / virtual event, or livestream something performative that you’re doing. Or maybe even do a giant google chat with a bunch of people that you might not get to see for a while, and facilitate a “digital summit” of some sort. Or a conversation of any kind, really. I have a friend who started an online group, and the premise is, if you wake up at 3 or 4 A.M. with a message of some sort in your head, you can share it with everyone. Great songwriting fodder for sure.
Don’t forget your hyper local DIY scene. Yeah, mass gatherings are out, but what about a collaborative house show with like 5 of your friends? Probably okay. By the time these words make the printed page, people are going to need this kind of stuff to stay sane.
Look inward. Have you been meaning to record an album? Or write something new? Maybe this is your moment. It’s no accident that some of the best music and art is made in times of extreme social upset — look at modernism at the start of the 20th century, or the music that rose out of the counter cultural revolution of the 60s. Use this time as an incubation period to delve more deeply into your practice.
Relatedly — maybe it’s time to investigate our own patterns of behavior, and see what we can get rid of. There are certain moments when the curtain is pulled back on our world. You see the gears turning behind it, and you see what a monster contraption we’ve created. When one constant is erased, everything collapses. Could it be that we need to slow down? Maybe the world as we know it — cheap flights, cheaper goods, destination events — isn’t really that tenable.
As for who is going to pay my bills, well, not sure about that. But maybe this hard reset will move things back to a more sustainable place for the long run. Also, thinking good thoughts and exercising self care can’t hurt. Godspeed to us all.