It’s Friday night in New York City, the perfect night to see your favorite local band’s newest gig. Maybe this was a reality in 2019, however, a rolling virus has changed all of that. What is a musician to do when a pandemic changes the way they perform and connect with their fans and other artists in their area?
With the effects of COVID-19 hitting many in ways that are not related to health, musicians have been fighting their way back to the scene. Discovering new ways to interact as a music community that could make them stronger than ever as they return.
“During the pandemic...I’ve been home and seen the world in a different light. I think every artist has been educated more, and I’ve seen more of us standing together on social issues no matter my background or somebody else's background. We all want equality so in my experience its made me not judge, and appreciate others more which I think strengthens our bond as musicians.”
If there is one thing that was felt across the state of New York during this pandemic, it was the shutdown of many businesses, schools, and in-person operations. Programs like Zoom and Google Hangouts quickly became the best ways to connect with others while safely being at home.
For artists accustomed to venues to play in and gigs to book, this was an option lingering in the background but so was Instagram. Being able to share new music and ideas through social media probably never seemed more important. Series like Fire Fridays, created by artist Benz sprung up to connect with artists, preview music, and talk about how the music industry was evolving.
JaMichael Frazier, a Brooklyn flautist, also featured on the first episode of Fire Fridays has not let closed venues stop his creative drive. Between new music projects and online music classes he teaches, the sound never stops.
“I feel like when the pandemic started things paused for a minute, but people quickly adapted and slowly started going into the virtual world. I’ve been collaborating with some Instagram pages and doing live-streams with other artists. I’ve also been hosting Zoom sessions where we host a songwriting workshop to keep each other writing and have a space to talk about anything in the music realm.
One big pro that I have realized is that it has been easier to collab with other musicians on their or your own tracks cause in this age, most people have a setup of their own somehow and enough time to send items back and forth.”
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The Return of In-Person
Although a virtual music community is amazing, they do not want to be left out of the re-opening conversation. On Wednesday, September 16th, Governor Cuomo stated in a briefing that New York was not at a point to return back to normal life when discussing the re-opening of businesses like music venues.
As the outlook on re-opening New York City began to look a little better, so did things for local artists. JaMichael has kept a keen eye on the opportunities opening up for himself and other musicians.
“I feel like the live gig scene is finally coming back very slowly but a few ways people have been setting things up safely is having jam sessions where people either have to be tested before or implement the six feet order. Other venues like Rockwood have been doing both live streams and in-person concerts where the bands are in the venues with a few people watching but mostly it’s still live stream. We still have a long ways to go for in-person shows and concerts but it’s coming.”
Whatever It Takes
Whether your favorite artist returns to a local venue or remains virtual during this time, everyone felt the misfortune of not being able to perform with a physical audience for a period of time. Artists, like DeShaun, had to tune in to new ways to reach their listeners and keep their ears open for their latest music.
“It leveled the playing field for everyone. Most artists make their money and living from live performances...because of the situation being what it is, it’s all about the music and talent now, no matter if you’re an established star or upcoming artist. I’ve worked on bringing better visuals because social media has been important to me as an artist, having a way to put out music and whatever other content I have to my fanbase that’s following me. Because of the pandemic, you have to use whatever method to just communicate and feed your fans.”
A Combination of the Two
In-person music performances have always been the norm and virtual performances have played into the “new norm”. What would it look like if these two aspects were combined in the future? The dynamic duo of in-person and virtual performances and music collaboration could become a new way to create a stronger music community.