Live music: Is it sick or recovering?

Being in a band has so many positive attributes but there is a growing negative trend since Covid and lockdowns, that the strain of live music, venues, attendances and popularity is waining.

Is there a difference to before and now?

Personally, a reflection of the appetite for live music is still healthy, but the reality is perhaps somewhat in contrast to this. As a witness, a music fan, band, musician and gig goer before Covid, there was an atmosphere that was decades old; sweaty venues with sticky floors, selling cheap beer with a raging, raucous and thriving music scene across the land.

Since then, we have had lockdowns and limitations of movement and the curtailing of live music, not just from the closeness of the intimate toilet circuit but even the juggernaut British Festivals also hitting the buffers. Re-booting live music has been an interesting experience.

There will always be casualties in the post covid restart (saying this as another variant is currently on the march); bands split up, struggling venues close, recording studios dwindle for business, writing new material dries up, productivity slows down, the music machine stretches its aching back.

It is difficult to know whether music since the start of 2022 has changed and the type of music has been influenced forever?

Cover bands and artists seem to be having a sort of weird renaissance, the demand for the layman music fan is higher than ever, and plug in juke boxes have seemingly been able to cash in on this, literally.

The older music fan is probably confused at this stage. Watching live music and performing recently, we can vouch that the landscape seems very different to what was before. The interest in an original band is somewhat patchy. Those that seem to have any form of success seem to be of an already established nature, or those of a student variety with an army of friends (not followers/fans) that support them in their newest art venture.

The financial side is a problem too. The cost of living has put pressure on everyone and the amount of likeliness of traveling to pay large amounts for gigs, parking, hotels, food, drink, merchandise etc has been rethought: Do I/can I afford this at the moment?

Has the priority changed? Do we want something different from music? Are we happy to just dwell on Spotify/Apple Music and watch Glastonbury highlights on TV? Is Youtube killing what little live experiences we connect with? Is the social platform and instant access to content ruining our future for live music? Are we already there?

We have seen some queuing at venues on week nights for some more elite bands, touring though has seen some bands we know begin to cancel some shows as ticket sales have been poor to non-existent. Is the public to blame? Is the artist/management/venue/promotor to blame?

I guess the younger fan will argue that the way in which music is consumed now has moved on, and the type of musician and bands of which they seek is also new. Perhaps this shift in taste was always there, its not an overnight change, but does seem to be spread across the platform quite spectacularly and most vividly since Covid.

Worryingly, is there a hunger for what was an older model? Are venues necessary or do we still want to perform live on Youtube? Of course a healthy mix is preferable but if your local live music establishment/pub etc want to charge £8 on the door on a Wednesday night for an unknown 5 band bill, some of these bands will struggle to sell tickets and might have a following online that warrants a live broadcast instead. Who wins here?

The other argument is of course, you don’t play gigs until you have a decent online following that will dictate any reasons for playing live. This we agree with. A more tailored and modern approach is to create content first, have a healthy and growing music consumption on various music streaming services and plan live outings accordingly.

The old philosophy of playing live to create awareness is a dinosaur, venues are not packed with random strangers waiting for a new band to rock up by chance that they will then “discover” that night. This did happen once upon a time.

Live music does not heal as well as it did before, its need the injection of public interest and support. Live music is a gift. It isn’t the same as before.

Can it be cured is a question only time will answer. For now, support local venues, support local bands, support grassroots music; the players, the writers, the sound guys, the photographers, the bar staff, the technicians.

For those that put their heart into it… we salute you!

Do you agree? Are you an originals doing great recently, cover band failing, venue thats flourishing, festival thats broke?

Let us know in the comments.

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