The beginning of this year was really tough. That’s because nothing had changed when it first started. We all observed people on the internet last Christmas, somehow annoyingly announcing that ‘the worst year’ will soon end. And then it did, but nothing had changed for us. We were as much in lockdown as we were a few months before. Making the raging pandemic into some sort of ‘devil child of 2020’, which disappears as the number on the calendar changes, only made people feel worse when their harsh reality remained the same.
Like, sorry to rain on your parade but I don’t have much good to say about the year so far. We’re still pretty much fucked. At least when it comes to live events in indoor spaces. Thanks to dedication and hard work of healthcare professionals, we have now vaccinated those most vulnerable. At least here, in the United Kingdom. That’s a big privilege and I am aware of that.
For artists and performers, pandemic meant a switch from real to digital. Sophie Ellis-Bextor playing disco gigs in her kitchen during lockdown 1.0 was an iconic isolation moment. Having your favourite artist launch an album through a $30 livestream concert experience one year on – not really.
Artists, record labels and managers still need to make money. I don’t have a problem with Madison Beer livestreaming her album launch concert. If you want to pay twenty quid to watch a concert DVD that you can only play once* – go for it. I just don’t want this form to become popular enough to significantly reduce the relevance of actual live events. For example, Dua Lipa blessed our souls with the high-budget Studio 2054 livestream in the peak of the pandemic, but also rescheduled her actual tour dates. Some artists might just choose to take the easy way. And that would SUCK.
Live music industry has its trends – like any other industry. Vegas residencies are a perfect example of that. After Britney Spears relocated to Vegas for a few years in 2013, other big artists followed. Many thought residencies were some sort of ‘last resort’ for artists who are struggling to remain popular. Britney changed that. Shortly after she moved out, Lady Gaga settled in and started performing jazz piano concerts as well as her regular pop spectacle – Enigma. Katy Perry will soon start her Vegas residency too. I don’t want livestreams to become another trend, just because it’s easier. Record labels know that fans will pay for anything, as long as their idol’s face is on it. Please, let’s not take the easy way out of this crisis. Let’s not make this permanent. I know it sounds dramatic, but better safe than sorry, I guess.
Mass events are the most dangerous environments for the virus to spread. It might seem as we are getting our normality back, but let’s be honest. There is a difference between going to your local barber, where you’re unlikely to be with more than a few people at the same time, and going to see The 1975 at the O2 Arena.
I’ve been really lucky and privileged over the last year, despite the deadly pandemic happening all around me. I started writing for lots of cool, independent projects, scored my first proper bylines in VICE and Metro, earned my first money as a journalist, been places and met people. I really shouldn’t complain. Thankfully, others tend to be more optimistic than myself.
Writing for Spotlight introduced me to many promising singers-songwriters. I can’t wait to see them perform and feel the energy in the room as they introduce some of the audience members to their tracks for the first time. One of them, Bethany Ferrie, who has just released her new single Bones, sees great hope in recent government trials, such as BRIT Awards or those lucky bastards in Liverpool.
“I think the gigs they’ve put on to test it out have been pretty promising,” Bethany told me earlier on today. “I could see the testing beforehand, as well as advising testing a few days after as the new normal for a good while yet. I don’t see a definite end to COVID. I think it’ll always be about but hopefully under as much control as it takes to get life back to normal. These variants just prove how fast it changes and spreads.”
Singer-Songwriter Calum Bowie, whom you might recognize from TikTok, also shared some thoughts with me over Insta earlier on. I’ve been following Calum since this article was published and also can’t wait for him to start touring. His new single Time That I Can Borrow came out a few days ago.
“I have a few gigs lined up over summer and towards winter next year, which I’m absolutely buzzing about! I really think it’s going to come back with a boom!” said Calum. “I think we’ll definitely get back to where we were before but it might take a bit of time until some of the initial restrictions are lifted. But I think we’ll make it work!”
Let’s hope the vaccines continue to work against all variants of Covid and will lead to further easing of restrictions. It would be nice to meet again, not only in a beer garden, but also at the Hydro, O2 Academy, SWG3 or King Tut’s. And with no compromises.
*Madison Beer’s Life Support stream is available on YouTube as separate performances. This doesn’t mean that other artists will be willing t o do the same.