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Musician life in a time of Covid-19

I have two distinct feelings after Sunday night, when President Cyril Ramaphosa told South Africa we are in a state of emergency in the midst of Covid-19.

The very first one was: “I am so grateful for this demonstration of leadership, at this time.” (I dread to think what would have happened had this virus arrived on our shores three years ago.) I pray for him and our nation’s leadership every day.

The second one is, as I’ve said in a previous post, that we are forced to re-think the world we know.

My own profession, as a performing artist, has been hit hard. Gig cancellations and postponed events are par for the course. And yet, I don’t believe this is a bad thing. In the future, when we all come out of isolation and hermit living, the times together at gigs and shows will be even more amazing, and more appreciated. What a time that will be!

Meanwhile, however, the big question is how do you make a living if you’re a performer and entertainer? Performers are agonising that there are no audiences to play to…

On the contrary, I would say that the BIGGEST audience of any artist’s career awaits – the world.

Last night, our local musicians’ gathering in Hilton – Music In The Hills (MiTH) – celebrated its 6th birthday online, together. Charles Webster and Dave Stark performed from their resident abodes, and during their performances a constant stream of comments, likes and emojis flooded screens as hundreds of followers from the region and far beyond gave their thumbs up (virtual and physical).

Interestingly, and obviously, the stats reflected a far greater audience reach and engagement than even a big attendance at the physical venue. Where MiTH reaches between 50-250 people at the venue, both artists far exceeded those numbers with their virtual performances. To date they are STILL being viewed.

The evidence is crystal clear: there are people out there, they are willing to engage and they are willing to support. Right now is a wonderful time to be a musician, despite what the headlines say. I see a number of things unfolding in the next little while:

Storytelling and insight.
Seeing an artist perform from their lounge or a mate’s balcony tells a deeper and wider narrative.

Better songwriting.
As life slows down and we’re forced to reflect on what truly matters, better songs and lyrics will emerge. Creativity won’t be constricted by deadline-driven lifestyle that even artists fall into.

Unforeseen networks.
As artists, fellow artists, fans and fellow fans engage online more proactively and more unguarded, so people will connect in ways they never would have from physically sitting across the room from each other. We could well see artists travelling to distant shores or connecting with audiences they never dreamed of as a result of this period of time.

There could be new types of crypto-currencies emerging, as well as different ways of making ends meet. How will that all work out? Well, time will tell. And what if all that doesn’t happen?

Well, at least life hasn’t been boring… hey?

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