How COVID-19 has affected the music industry
As the world faces the coronavirus pandemic, every industry is being affected, including the entertainment industry. With everyone being encouraged to practice social distancing, tours have been postponed and cancelled, it is harder for artists and writers to collaborate with songwriters, and they aren’t able to get into the studio and record music in a traditional way. In the coming months, although society might return to some normalcy with businesses, we could see the effects on the music industry last a little longer, and some may not even show up until down the road.
Over the past few months we have seen a few immediate effects that the pandemic has had on the music industry. The most notable one being the rescheduling and cancellation of tours around the world. According to billboard.com, Camila Cabello, Niall Horan, Journey, Kesha, The Lumineers, Snoop Dogg, and Harry Styles are just a handful of artists who have either delayed their tours to 2021 or cancelled them altogether.
On April 3, Niall Horan announced via social media that his tour scheduled to start April 20, would be cancelled.
“I want to announce new dates soon but I don’t think it’s fair on you guys to do so until the dust has settled and things have gone back to normal. For now, all tickets purchased will be refunded,” his official tweet and Instagram post said.
He did note that he does plan to try to tour in 2021, potentially with some new music.
Aside from the touring, COVID-19 has also had an impact on the release and success of current albums.
According to Kory Grow, a writer for Rolling Stone, the pandemic has affected most music labels’ release schedules, especially with the temporary closure of record stores when the government began to issue stay at home orders.
“The facts that stores would not be able to sell albums and that people wouldn’t be able to leave their houses to buy new music even if the stores were open prompted record labels to push back their releases until later in the year,” Grow explained.
Not only are the tangible record sales being affected, but the numbers on different streaming platforms have also been down over the past two months.
Grow theorizes that this could be due to most people working from home now.
“I suppose people were streaming a lot of music in their cars and now they have nowhere to drive,” he said.
He also noted that while X, Fiona Apple, and Dua Lipa’s new albums did well, The Weeknd’s latest album, After Hours, did not perform as well as he had expected.
Although we are witnessing these current effects, there are a lot of questions about how the pandemic will impact music down the road, including the type of music being released and performed.
On April 18, Global Citizen hosted an internet and television event called, “One World: Together At Home,” which featured a long list of performers. Regardless of if it was an original or a cover, the majority of songs they sung were upbeat and inspired hope and strength; Stevie Wonder performed a mashup of “Lean on Me” and “Love’s in Need of Love Today”, John Legend and Sam Smith sang a duet of “Stand By Me”, and Andra Day performed her hit song “Rise Up”.
Because of the stress and dark times that have taken over the world, musicians seem to be trying to bring some positivity by performing and sharing uplifting songs. However, in a few months, will people begin to see the release of songs that aren’t quite as positive? A lot of times, artists write based on their own feelings and experiences, and with people practicing self-isolation, that could inspire new tracks about those topics.
Grow predicts that there will be a nice mix of music that is written during this time due to everyone’s situation being different.
“People’s states of mind will be all over the place, likely through the end of the year and into the next, so I’d say you should expect a wide variety of emotions,” he explained.
Along with the message of the songs, there could also be a shift in the style of music that is produced. The stay at home order has prevented musicians and singers from recording in studios, so they have had to adjust, and Grow believes this will affect the type of music they are making.
“As for the style and way that music is produced, I’d expect to hear more intimate sounds. I’ve been seeing a lot more acoustic songs and electronic songs in recent weeks. I think people are learning to be more self-reliant technologically, and that will inform the sound of music in the months to come,” Grow said.
Although in the past artists may have written songs about feeling psychologically alone, this forced, physical isolation is new territory, which could open the door for new and different music. The current pandemic is a situation no living person has ever experienced. There were no guidelines as to what anyone is truly “supposed” to do, which includes those working in the music industry.
A common cycle for many artists is to write and produce an album for around a year, after its release, tour the album for six months to a year, and then repeat the cycle. As mentioned earlier, almost every artist has cancelled or postponed most of their upcoming tours until next year, and many of them had already released the music they were planning on touring. They then have to decide if whenever they are able to tour, if they will perform the music they had already planned to, or if they will work on new music now, and then tour that instead. They could also choose to do a mix of both; release singles they are working on now and add them to their tours, while still maintaining the core of their original setlist.
These artists also face the issue of the uncertainty surrounding when they will be able to tour again. Even as countries begin to reopen, people are still encouraged to practice social distancing, and businesses are encouraged to limit the number of people in a given area. Concerts might be one of the last things that return due to the sheer number of people who attend them. In Columbus, EXPRESS LIVE! holds 2,200 guests inside and 5,200 guests for outdoor events, Nationwide Arena seats 20,000 for concerts, and for any artist on a stadium tour, Ohio Stadium has a capacity of 104,944 people. Concerts are always a large number of people in close quarters, which is the opposite of the behaviors needed to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Once artists are able to tour again, it could also be difficult to get spots to perform. The arenas and stadiums will have to manage the schedule of their sports teams, the artists who were originally touring in 2020, as well as the artists who had already planned to tour in 2021 and beyond.
Regardless of when they release their music, Grow mentioned that the quarantine has inspired musicians and singers to be creative.
“I’ve found that self-isolation is leading some artists to want to make more music. Last week, in an interview, Lars Ulrich from Metallica told me that the band was exploring ways of making new music, which is great,” he explained.
Performers who were about to release new music also have had to decide whether or not they keep their original drop date. The pandemic would prevent them from being able to tour their music and limits their ability to do press for it.
“Depending on how long this goes, they may get fed up with waiting and release them anyway,” Grow speculated.
Regardless of what artists decide to do, we will continue to see COVID-19 affect the music industry and process, starting with the writing, all the way through touring.
“I hope artists learn some new skills and keep creating and that the flow of music isn’t interrupted too much…I’m eager to see what happens!”