Crowd shot at SXSW 2019
Photo: Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW
How The Global Coronavirus Pandemic Is Directly Impacting Songwriters, Musicians And Artists
By now, the detrimental effects of the global coronavirus pandemic on the music industry are loudly heard. Major festivals around the world are postponing or outright cancelling their 2020 editions. This month alone, Coachella and Stagecoach, Ultra Music Festival, SXSW, Lollapalooza Argentina, Treefort Music Fest, Brussels' Listen! Festival and several other major events were called off or postponed due to the coronavirus. The aftermath has impacted everything from music conferences and award shows—this year's Winter Music Conference, ASCAP Experience, Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards and BMI Latin Awards were all cancelled or postponed—while the amount of cancelled national and international tours continues to grow seemingly on the daily.
As the coronavirus itself continues to spread, so too does its ramifications on the music industry. While industry experts and analysts are projecting that the live concert business could stand to lose billions, the financial fallout is virtually immeasurable at this point.
But music's financial collapse is already taking its industry-wide toll.
"You have people delaying on-sales for tours, and you have people who are going to postpone tours. It's chaotic and stressful, from agents and managers to artists, their families and their support teams," Allen Kovac, an artist manager who represents Mötley Crüe and other acts, told The New York Times.
The downfall of the live music space comes in the streaming era when the majority of professional recording artists and performing musicians rely heavily on touring and live performances as their main source of income. A 2018 survey by the Music Industry Research Association and the Princeton University Survey Research Center, in partnership with the Recording Academy's MusiCares, found that live performances were the "most common income source for musicians," according to Rolling Stone. (Pitchfork's in-depth feature on the booming music streaming market visualizes these financial percentages in a helpful graph.)
Still, even as the streaming industry continues to grow, with streaming accounting for 80 percent of the music industry’s overall revenue, the low royalty rates make it difficult for small and independent artists to even earn a minimum wage through streaming. And artists continue to make nothing from traditional AM/FM radio platforms (a major reason why Congress needs to pass the AM-FM Act).
This all makes the live music industry all that more important for artists and musicians, especially for those considered to be non-superstar acts who rely on paychecks from touring and live gigs just to make a living. A coronavirus-sized pandemic that causes festival cancelations and cuts touring schedules short will undoubtedly impact the bottom line of artists and creators of every size on a global scale. Simply put: No shows = no paycheck.
The coronavirus cancellations will also trickle down to songwriters, who depend on performance royalties from the live performances of their songs. A decrease in shows unquestionably equates to a decrease in potential gains via live performance royalties.
Then, of course, there's the legion of audio engineers, sound and light crews, backstage teams, tour managers and other behind-the-scenes hands who have doubtlessly lost work due to canceled tours, conferences and festivals. As DJ TechTools, a DJ- and gear-centric outlet, points out, audiovisual technicians are reporting a massive wave of job cancellations as more and more music conferences are cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
With the global concert industry now in flux, the disruption has created a volatile environment for artists, independent musicians, songwriters, producers and the like on every level. As tours and festivals continue to cancel, these same industries are, too, impacted, leaving session players, live musicians and all sorts of creative workers to face potentially empty touring and recording schedules for months on end. Worst of all, there is no end in sight just yet.
Still, as the coronavirus story develops and the world continues to adapt, so will our beloved music industry. The artist and musician community can tap into the national and local resources available to alleviate any financial, mental and social distress caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
If you are an artist or music professional who has been impacted by this unprecedented circumstance and are in need of assistance, please visit our MusiCares page to learn more about the financial, medical and personal emergencies services and resources offered by the Recording Academy.