Has the quarantine produced more music?
I was scrolling through the afternoon’s email while waiting for Natalie Gelman’s live stream on GigmorLive and saw that the first email – the release of “Blazing” by Binx, was followed by dozens of other notices of new releases and livestreams. It dawned on me that the volume of music being produced – or at least pitched at me – has dramatically increased with the quarantine. The sheer number of albums, EPs, singles, and videos just in my email box, not to mention notices on Instagram and Bandcamp, and YouTube, etc. , is almost overwhelming. Add to that the email notices, Instagram stories, and even texts I get about livestreams, I definitely think that there is more music than ever now.
Just to show you what I mean, here are samples of notices I received this afternoon on email:
“Blazing” is out now by Binx
The band Drama Relax releases a new song and video for “POTENCY” today
The band Gateway Drugs release a new album today, “PSA” on Future Shock Records
Portland’s Sávila Releases Mini Documentary ‘Échale Sávila’, A Meditation on Intergenerational Healing, Mexican-American Identity, and Resilience
Princess of Danchall Shensea releases new track “Bad Habit on all DSP’s
Jessica Medina pays tributes to moms with her latest single “Sueño”
Houston band OMB Bloodbath unleashes major label single and video
“Dropout” With Maxo Kream Unites Southeast & Southwest Neighborhoods
Icelandic Emotional Post-Rock Collective VAR debut New Video “Moments” on Pop Dust ‘The Never-Ending Year’- Now Streaming Everywhere
Ariana Grande “Stuck with You video premier. See it now
D.A. Stern Quarantine Covers Series now available
Francisca Valenzuela Lila Downs Casa Music Festival live stream Sunday.
Tim McGraw releases “I Called Mama”
Martha Wainwright shares a new song, “Wolves” featuring her brother Rufus Wainwright
Tiny Porch Concerts presents Mother’s Day Music and Mimosas with Kris Angelis
The Rumba Madre band releases the comical, sarcastic “La Rumba del Coco”
Natalia LaFourcade releases a new album “Un Canto Por México”
This list does not include Instagram notices like Maggie Szabo’s new release or the Nancy Sanchez and Flor de Toloache collaboration, multiple Instagram Live notices for streams happening now, nor notices sent from artists like Alé on text or Messenger about releases or livestreams. As a music writer, I am contacted by artists and agents all the time, but the list above would normally represent about three days’ worth, not a Friday afternoon.
So, is there really that much more music being produced during the quarantine. I suspect the answer is “yes, and we are seeing more of it because of fundamental changes in the music industry.”
First, there is more music is being produced. A number of factors may be converging here. Producing at home is now what you do, whether you are a top-rated band with a fully equipped state of the art home studio, or a recent School of Rock graduate with a Mac, software, and blankets on the wall – it is accepted and routine – a trend that has been building for some time.
Second, the proliferation of co-working/co-producing software and even Zoom has made working with distant bandmates, accompanists, and producers easy and in most cases free. The upshot is that anyone can easily and cheaply produce a song, an EP, or even an album at home. And, since musicians are pretty much, in Ariana Grande’s words, stuck at home, they have a lot more time to write and record…as long as the unemployment on their day job and the stimulus payment can pay the bills.
Livestreaming has given artists a channel to get all this music out, without the interference (or judgment) of gatekeepers in the media and the venues. Anyone can perform on Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Stageit.com. Gigmor and other platforms. And they get audiences, even if it is only their friends. It is not perfect. I spent 20 minutes trying to find a heavily promoted Chicano Batman Livestream yesterday and finally gave up – along with a number of other people when I got bounced from platform to platform and never saw a livestream despite clicking on all the buttons that said: “Click Here for Live.”.
Many bands say they actually make money on streams, getting fees through Stageit.com, private Facebook groups that require a PayPal deposit, or tip jars. They tell me their income from livestreams is as much or more than their net from live concerts because they don’t split it with the venues, they have no travel costs, and viewers are being fairly generous with their tips. Plus, they can do them daily if they want to. And since everyone is home watching livestreams or videos, the audience is much bigger than just the folks who venture out to clubs and concerts.
What happens when real live music comes back and we can go to clubs and concerts? We will go, with a vengeance, because we all Just-Want-To-Get-Out. But we will have seen a lot of new bands, heard a lot of new artists, and we will have another music alternative when we can’t or don’t feel like or can’t afford to go out.
So, I hope the bottom line is that the terrible quarantine, in the end, will have encouraged the emergence of new talent as well as a new distribution channel and it will have diluted even more the power of the gatekeepers. Whether or not this means we will see better, as well as more, music, remains to be seen. But from what I am seeing now, I think the answer is YES, and my email/Instagram/messenger/Twitter /Bandcamp/WhatsApp will be just as busy.