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OP-ED: It’s time to face the music

  • Published at 02:58 pm August 8th, 2020
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Why we must help our artistes get through this crisis

Much has been written about the negative impact of the ongoing pandemic on different industries. However, very little research has been done to assess the impact of Covid-19 on the music industry nationally despite music being something that is intrinsically linked to our lives to such an extent that most people consider it as a way to escape from mental and physical agony. 

Let’s start by discussing the effect on concert organizers. Despite facing many problems for the last couple of years, such as a lack of interest from companies to come forward as sponsors, there has been an unreasonable hike in the rent for concert venues. 

We could see that some organizers were still trying with their heart and soul to survive in the market by organizing at least some concerts, albeit with a much-limited budget and profit scale compared to what they used to get prior to the sudden collapse of the market in general post 2015/16. 

What I can say from my experience of working as concert organizers for almost 10 years now is that the emergence of Covid-19 has only made it harder for organizers to not only get the permission to hold such mass gatherings in the post-Covid world, but also to secure sponsorships for concerts. 

This is due to the general fear of spreading and contracting Covid through such events which will stay in the minds of many, at least until everyone is given an effective vaccine -- which of course will take a long period of time. This will only force many more concert organizers who were holding on to the dream of reviving an otherwise dead practice of concerts being organized regularly to throw their dream in the wayside and try their luck elsewhere. 

This will consequently result in band members and solo musicians, particularly those who had taken music as a full-time profession, earning less than before and struggling to support themselves and those who depend on them such as their old parents and children. 

Some may suggest that this loss can be compensated through posting content on various social media platforms and monetizing them. However, this argument can easily be dismissed by looking at the number of people that have subscribed to those who’ve already opened such channels and are posting quality content regularly for the audience. 

If one seeks to find the answer to whether we have let our musicians down collectively as an audience, he/ she won’t have to go any further than opening the YouTube app in his/her respective device and clicking on the channels of those who are already recognized as the big names of the industry. 

This makes the hope of earning enough to be able to support themselves and their families of relatively new musicians a distant dream. Just for example, imagine if a senior, skillful band of musicians such as “Shunno” is only given 156,000 subscribers on their official YouTube channel out of the 29 million viewers, as reported by a leading national newspaper in 2018, where does it place the talented solo musicians and bands of the new generation like “Conclusion,” “Arekta Rock Band,” and others in the same conversation? 

So again, this will inevitably lead to a situation where a lot of the new musicians will be forced to leave music and look for alternative ways to earn a livelihood. 

On the other hand, if the currently active musicians and bands are forced to leave the industry and the future generation is discouraged to enter, it will have a severe effect on the survival of labels and consequently, on the people involved with the companies and their dependents. 

In turn, this would also cause many currently active music directors, video directors, sound engineers, and others alike to lose their jobs, and the ones aspiring to be so to lose their interest in taking on these roles as a full-time commitment. All of this will collectively result in a shortage of quality music being produced in the near future and consequently, more and more listeners and sponsors being detached from an already crippled industry. 

I want to conclude by saying that the music industry has been hit as hard by the pandemic as any other industry one may pick, despite the lack of interest shown in terms of conducting research on the same. 

To recover from the loss caused by this undesired hit and to ensure the survival of the industry in this crucial period and beyond, everyone who is involved in it, starting from the musicians, to concert organizers, to the audience, has to come to the rescue at some point. We all need to realize that reviving the music industry in the post-Covid world is indeed an uphill battle that can never be won by the valiant action of a single person or group, but through the collective effort of all concerned. 

Arafat Reza is a teaching assistant at the London College of Legal Studies (South), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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