Lockdown Blues For Musicians

In the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, more artists than ever before are picking up their instruments and sharing their music across the internet.


Darya Lollos

Ella Yellin ’22 (pictured at right) said that she has been practicing her instrument, the tenor saxophone, during the lockdown in order to relieve stress and to pass the time.

As our country shut down in March 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, so did musicians’ prospects of playing gigs at concert halls and music festivals across America. With coronavirus-related restrictions expected to continue into the summer of 2020, many artists are unsure how they will support themselves when they are not able to tour or rely on ticket sales for performances. 

Although streaming services such as Spotify give artists royalties for others who stream their music, they often do not pay musicians much, and artists tend to rely on touring and performing gigs to earn a living. Clubs that feature live music are currently receiving loans to help pay employees, but most are not enough to cover rent. These local hotspots are in danger of closing forever, and with the loss of clubs comes the loss of opportunity for local musicians. 

However, in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, more people than ever before are creating and sharing music virtually. Music software sites such as GarageBand and Apogee have seen a large uptick in users, and there has been a heavy increase of people uploading their music to smaller streaming services. In addition, Guitar Center’s sales have doubled, and its data shows people are taking up new instruments and enrolling in beginner lessons. 

It’s not just beginners who are playing and sharing music either. Professional musicians like Bruce Springsteen and Brandi Carlile are performing virtual concerts on platforms like Facebook Live and Veeps to support their fans and raise money for charity. One example of this is The Metropolitan Opera, which has been hosting a “Nightly Opera Stream” where they live-stream performances from the past fourteen years for hundreds of thousands of viewers to watch (for free, although a donation is requested to help support them during this difficult time). Musicians who would ordinarily be performing at local clubs are also playing concerts online, relying on fans to give tips and buy merchandise to earn money. 

While a number of independent artists are putting out new music, more famous musicians have delayed the release of their albums and projects. Artists such as Lady Gaga, Haim, and even Willie Nelson have put off the release of new material due to the fact they would not be able to promote their work. To make sure that fans are aware of new material, musicians constantly have to market themselves by touring and making television and radio appearances — in the present climate, this is nearly impossible. 

Many Bronx Science students have used this time to practice and hone their own musical skills. “During this pandemic, listening or playing music on the violin has been a good way to take my mind off of stressful thoughts and to entertain myself while stuck at home,” said Joaquin Guevara-Ho ’22.

Ella Yellin ’22, who plays tenor saxophone for Jazz Band, agreed. “I am practicing my instrument more now, because I have much more free time. I think it’s sad that musicians’ projects have to be put on hold, but I also think that new and interesting pieces will come out of this pandemic as well,” said Yellin. 

Travis McCready’s recent concert shows what may lie ahead for the entertainment industry. McCready performed the first coronavirus concert on May 18, 2020 for 239 fans at Temple Live in Arkansas, a venue that would ordinarily house 1,100 people. Each attendee was required to wear a mask and buy multiple tickets, referred to as a “fan pod,” to ensure social distancing. Though the process might seem tedious, these precautions could allow live music venues to reopen again soon, though only containing a fraction of the ordinary audience. 

Though the future of the music industry is uncertain at present, artists have been receiving donations from major organizations and delaying their music releases until later in the year. With continued support from fans and the industry, artists will hopefully make it through the Coronavirus pandemic and get back on their feet, all while spreading joy to others using the method that they know best — music. 

“During this pandemic, listening or playing music on the violin has been a good way to take my mind off of stressful thoughts and to entertain myself while stuck at home,” said Joaquin Guevara-Ho ’22.