Image by Harut Movsisyan from Pixabay

How Musicians Are Surviving the Pandemic — and the Music Industry

Nine US-based musicians discuss surviving and adapting to the changing music industry in our extraordinarily challenging time of pandemic shutdown.

Plenty of Time for Self-Reflection

One positive outcome of this pandemic is the reflection it has prompted individuals to engage in, both looking at themselves and the operating systems that impact their lives.

“Even if COVID-19 had never happened, a lot of things were in the process of changing,” states Lonberg-Holm, reflecting on how current issues have been evident throughout his music career.

“I came up in a very different environment, and the parameters did not include the kind of examinations of race and gender that are now in the foreground,” he says. “I went to Brooklyn College, but while it was very integrated, the music department was very white. Then in grad school, at the suggestion of a woman composer ( Pauline Oliveros), I went to Mills (an all women’s school for the undergrads) to study with an African-American musician (Anthony Braxton). I was eager to work with and be a part of what I expected to be a racially and gender diverse student body.

“When I got there, I was surprised to find the graduate music department had maybe two black students and very few women,” Lonberg-Holm continues. “I think it’s a lot more diverse there now, but at the time, it was a little bit of a surprise for me, although typical in schools around the country. Anyway, there were no #MeToo or Black Lives Matter movements then, but now there are. Many in my generation are re-examining their histories and rightfully self-criticizing.”

MacKay says, “I hope that the introspection of these times is not lost in a rush to re-create performance and recording as it was.” He cites hope that there might be “enhanced creativity in the idea of venues and booking.”

“I can’t help but reflect, but also, I’m in pretty good shape,” says Anderson. “I’ve built a pretty resilient career by having low overhead, owning a bunch of my records, doing things for myself rather than hiring others to do them, building community, among many other things. I started slowly and built from the ground up, so I have less to lose than many people. Also, I don’t have a Plan B. This is what I know how to do what I want to do, and I’ll find a way to continue.”

MacKay jokes that his gardening and cooking have gotten much better, while Joyner claims that his most creative act has been building a firepit with his daughter. Their observations illustrate an increased focus on home life and becoming grounded in a way that rarely happens with a touring musician’s on-again-off-again lifestyle, sometimes with surprising results.

“I’ve discovered my life is more full without endless touring,” adds Walker. “I love my home life more than ever. I usually do 250 gigs a year. I can’t imagine doing that from now on.”

img-142Ryley Walker (2020) (Courtesy of the artist)