Who will save the musicians?

During the quarantine, music has been one of the main things that has saved us – the importance that it has had is immeasurable.

Not only have the most famous artists and bands helped the public to cope with the situation, but so have individuals from their own homes.

Martín Barcelonés, from the Bilbao Opera Choir, gave a mini concert to his neighbours from his balcony in Bilbao’s main street for the purpose of distracting people and helping them to feel less alone.

In Pamplona’s Caldereña Street at 18:00 it was happy hour. At this time every person went to their balcony and started singing or playing instruments all together. It was a respite from the lockdown, a moment to enjoy and disconnect. This happy hour started when a man  was playing the guitar on his balcony and his neighbours started singing to the rhythm of the chords. 

Throughout the quarantine, musicians have entertained the public with streaming concerts on social networks and making music on different platforms. Now the question can be asked, who will save the artists who are behind those songs? 

Every artist or band has been forced to cancel or to postpone their concerts because of the COVID-19 crisis, which has resulted in enormous financial problems. Tickets sales and merchandising can be up to 80 percent of a musician’s earnings.

Juancho Marqués, a famous and influential Spanish rapper says, “it is not only what we lose, but what we stop generating. We stop progressing toward our goals.”

He further added that he has made a strategic plan for generating content for the next one to two years. As part of this plan, he recently released a song called Virtual Happiness. In this video clip he has nostalgic images of the artist interacting with the audience. 

Some bands have taken advantage of the isolation to create more music. Spanish indie rock band Vetusta Morla is one such group. Now that people can once again travel freely in their community in Spain, Vetusta Morla are very busy presenting their newly released album, MSDL Canciones dentro de canciones, to the media. They are combining the album release with projects without public exposure. 

However, other bands are struggling with the situation. The Woodstring Band, a small rock group from the Basque Country, was about to release its third album; they had an appointment in the studio but they had to postpone it and finally, cancel it. Now the album is on ‘standby.’ They cannot rehearse together. They have tried to work individually from home with the material that they have, but it is very difficult and they do not have a date for their return to the studio.

“The possibility of performing again will be difficult,” explains the lead singer of the band. “The first opportunity to do concerts will be given to well-known artists. We normally perform in parties, but we think that they will be postponed,” he added.

One of their main sources of income is selling CDs and merchandising. With the revenue from the sales, they will be able to record their next record. All the members of the band have another job, which now is helping them to pay their debts, as a result of the loss of work due to the lockdown.

“If the audience wants to help it is important to listen to our music and enjoy it,” says the drummer. “It is very important to consume culture. This sector needs to be understood and helped.”

He also added that the day when concerts are permitted again people should go and not just when is it free, “this is what helps us to continue producing and working.”

Ichi and Clara, members of Biuti Bambú, did their first performance as a music group two weeks before the lockdown started. Because of the coronavirus they had to cancel a small tour that they were about to do.

“We have been working hard, recording songs and videos. We want to return to the stage stronger than ever,” Ichi and Clara stated.

Both of them added that after living through this unusual situation, they would love to see culture finally valued. 

“Behind the music are artists who today have nothing to eat”

During the spring and summer, a large number of concerts and shows are held throughout Spain. This period is when a lot of artists earn money for the rest of the year.

“Behind the music are artists who today have nothing to eat,” says Luis F. Navarro Bastanchury, the president of the Professional Union of Musicians of Spain.

Navarro Bastanchury is very critical of the governments position. He points out that in the music world, artists often have precarious contracts and do not have basic benefits in the time of lack of work. “Soon the pandemic will be solved and hopefully we will go back to work, but the main and previous problem of precarious jobs will not only continue but will also become more acute.”

Navarro Bastanchury includes that the government has many things to fix and that “the musicians are the last link in a large chain of problems to solve.”

The Professional Union of Musicians of Spain appeals to hire a singer or a live band when an event is organized. With their hash tag #delbalcónalministerio, The Professional Union of Musicians of Spain want to join forces with all musicians and collect information on the effects of the quarantine on their working lives. 

The Spanish Music Federation declares that “this crisis is putting in danger the survival of the music sector.” Because of this, the federation thought that it would be important to apply some urgent measures in order to save the industry: like the reduction of the VAT from the 10 percent to the 4 percent on tickets for live music and a reduction from 21 percent to 10 percent in all the services related to live and recorded music. However, the Spanish government has yet to clarify its position on this proposal.