Like Napster before it, COVID-19 will force music to adapt to a new era
Music got knocked down. But it’ll get up again. No you’re never gonna keep it down. ...
And just like that, the music industry changed forever.
It took a little over two weeks for Live Nation’s value to be severed in half after news of event cancellations began to rock the collective American psyche in March. No South by Southwest. No Ultra. Coachella too?
The rest followed suit. From the biggest venues to the smallest dives, schedules were shredded to nothing seemingly overnight. It’s not a fairy tale story either; there are no saviors on the other side of this mess. What you knew in February no longer is. What’s left at the end of it all is what will be.
For now, the dip.
Let’s not be so dense to think these catastrophic problems will absolve quickly. What's been happened to America over these past few months will be felt by households everywhere for years to come — most especially the gig entertainers and those who support the events. Bars will close. Venues will disappear. DoorDash will be sifting though new applications of former musicians-turned “in between jobs right now” looking for brighter futures.
It isn’t unlike another Napster happening. When the file-sharing program was launched it sent the industry into a tailspin. It made Metallica’s Lars Ulrich cry. Suddenly, the gold rush of the CD era was doomed and sent the fat cats at the top scrambling to find any source of revenue to stay alive.
If you think about it, music fans have Napster to thank for their favorite festivals. Label heads knew there wouldn’t ever be a physical product to sell anymore to rival CDs or vinyl of scenes past. Tickets and live tours — it found after years of throwing noodles at the wall — was what the fans would willingly pay for. Enter the era of experiences!
“Yeah, Madison Square Garden is big,” they all thought to themselves, “but you know what’s bigger? A desert in California. Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The entire downtown area of Austin!
“And they’ll pay thousands for tickets and advertise for it free on social media just to be a singular part of it. Up the venue. Up the talent. Up the excitement!”
We’ll only confront a few catastrophic events in each of our lifetimes. Some will simply be headlines of otherworlds with little effect on life at home. Others — like the recent worldwide quarantine to mitigate the COVID-19 virus — will hit you upside the head like a ton of bricks.
Industries being wiped clean this quickly is a test of the internal spirit. Luckily that’s something the creatives of the world have plenty of.
Soon, the rip.
The monster companies that bring us entertainment are going to be just fine. Money is out there shelved for such an occasion. The tax breaks and incentives will be swift in order to jumpstart the broken machine. In time, you’ll be able to see your favorite artists on stage as things were. To the point of monotony again, predictably.
Music needed a swift kick in the balls anyway.
The others, however, need everyone’s help. The bedroom DJs that relied on a few hundred people through a neighborhood door aren’t getting kickbacks. Singers with a loyal army of SoundCloud followers won’t be part of the recovery plan. Lighting technicians, soundboard operators, producers, bartenders, security guards, merch sellers … all of ‘em are pretty screwed right now. Help ‘em all out. It’s the least we can do.
Music as a whole will get through this. In fact, it only took days of self-isolation for new and innovative ideas to hit the stream. And when it does, get ready. Napster forced music to adapt to a new era. What deck of cards does post-virus music have up its sleeve?