The Music Business Will 'Fight On'
Currently the World is fighting. A fight to save lives, a fight to carry on, a fight to return to normal. The United States is in the middle of that fight. There are millions of Americans suddenly without a job and they do not know when that might change. One of the industries most hit by the Pandemic is the Music Business. There are no live shows, no stage to set up and no festivals. Many artists from independent to Superstars have taken to Facebook Live to give their fans a show and Barrett Baber is one of those artists.
Baber like many other Americans though the shutdown would not last very long. Everything would be on hold for a few weeks and then everything would return to normal. But soon all across America it be came clear the shut down would last weeks and not days. In a blink of an eye Baber saw most of his 2020 gigs canceled.
“Much like many of Americans, I took the cancellations and interruption in business in March in stride. At that point we were all hoping that at worst we'd be talking about a matter of weeks before we could get back to work. It wasn't until a few weeks later that I, along with everyone else, realized that this was going to be a marathon rather than a sprint,” said Baber.
“It didn't take long before the full economic impact of this situation on me personally became evident. The cancellations started coming and haven't stopped. Basically every single performance that I had on the books for the rest of 2020 is either fully cancelled or "on hold until we know more". That's a scary feeling when close to 50% of your annual income evaporates in front of your eyes. Unfortunately, no one is canceling the "pay your bills" part of life along side the gigs,” continued Baber.
Artists have turned to Facebook Live to entertain their fans. Facebook live has given the artists an outlet to make music and perform. Over night Facebook Live went from a thing that artists did once in a while to their full-time job. Baber has enjoyed being able to connect with fans.
“I'm so grateful for the technology that allows me to connect with my fans and supporters in real time. Before now, Facebook Live broadcasts were a thing artists did to promote or engage with fans so they could hear a new song or find out about a show. It feels like Facebook Live instantly went from a "kind of cool thing some artists do" to "an essential tool that artists use to help their fans get through a very difficult moment in time". If Facebook Live were a stock, it's value would be skyrocketing. I think both artists and fans have learned through the quarantine how valuable consuming music in real time both live and online really is,” said Baber.
“The best part about my FB lives is the real time support you can feel through the comments and engagement. Every week I get emails and comments thanking me for doing something that helps folks get through a tremendously difficult time in human history. That alone is enough reason to do it. I decided early on that I'd ask people to contribute in some way if they could, and that any and all "tips" I received would be split between the guys in my band. That's the best feeling of all. Seeing supporters of mine reach into their wallets and give so that some guys they don't know and may never meet can pay their bills or buy groceries that week. It's easy to get caught up in the massiveness of this situation. At the end of the day though, it doesn't take much effort or money to effectively take some of the burden of this predicament off of some good people that want to work, but aren't allowed to at the moment. I'm proud of that and extremely grateful that I have fans that are willing to help others. I'm not at all surprised. They've been doing the same thing for me for years,” continued Baber.
One of the scariest parts about the pandemic is the unknown. Not knowing who you love could can get sick, not know where your next paycheck from or where your friends will get theirs. For Baber he worries about the people he cares most for; his friends, family, and fellow musicians.
“I worry most about people in my life who are at risk. My parents. My aunts and uncles. My friends who are high risk. Beyond that I worry about the guys in my band and my fellow music makers that I know are getting their asses kicked by the economic shutdown. All of the guys in my band make their living performing live. They tour with multiple acts and play TONS of sets on Broadway in Nashville. Those guys don't have a pub deal draw that helps them keep the boat floating. They went from having a good, fun, steady job to instantly having ZERO income in a matter of days. As you might expect, playing music for a living is good money, but often not good enough to have 6 months of income saved up in case a global pandemic hits. I worry about my guys and other people like them a lot,” said Baber.
As Tennessee begins to open up and business are allowed to reopen the question is, will the music scene return to normal? Will Downtown Nashville’s Honky Tonks be packed like they once was? What effect will the economic losses have? According to Baber while it is hard to say what the full impact of COVID-19 will be, he believes the songwriting community will be hit hard.
“It's really hard to say what the full impact of COVID-19 will be on the music business. There's no way things will completely go "back to normal". I think really big live shows and festivals, if they happen in the next 12 months at all, are going to look and be a lot different. Beyond the live show economic losses that are mounting, there will undoubtedly be an effect on songwriters. Because streaming services continue to pay writer royalties at an unfathomably low rate, most songwriters in Nashville don't have a publishing deal that pays them a monthly draw. That said, many of those songwriters are forced to take side hustle type jobs in the music business. The largest being performing in bars and venues in Nashville. With that way of making ends meet completely shut down,” said Baber.
“I believe what we'll see is a further shrinking of the songwriter population in town. Those songwriters without major publishing deals will simply have to either move somewhere else and get a non music business job so they can survive, or get a normal day job and write on the weekends. Either way, it means less songs are being written. Without as many songwriters in Nashville pushing the country music genre in different and fresh directions, my fear is that in a few years we'll see a decrease in the quality of songs. It's going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out. Sure, less competition might be a good thing for me in regards to getting more cuts, but in the long term I think it'll be bad for the craft. I'm dedicated to the craft of songwriting. I'd rather see it flourish and be harder to get cuts than get rich and watch it die,” said Baber.
While our post COVID-19 world in unclear the thing that is clear is American will fight. They will fight to beat this, fight to survive.