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Live Music: What does the future look like?




Lockdown hit the local live music scene hard. So how has it adapted - and what does the future look like? Velvet’s Jude Clarke reports

We don’t know about you, but one of the things we’ve been missing most of all in recent months is live music. The press of the crowd at a noisy rock show, the thrill of an orchestra or the awed hush greeting a singer-songwriter’s harmonious tunes – all this has been absent from our lives since lockdown, and the absence is a marked one.

But what of the musicians, venue workers, promoters and others in our region that brought all of these special moments and happenings into our lives? How have they been coping with the dramatic changes we are all living through, and what are their thoughts on the future of live music in our city? We checked in with a few to find out.

Tim Willett, host: New Music Generator on Cambridge 105 radio

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected what you do?

It's completely obliterated my calendar for the year! I am furloughed from my day job in a music venue, all of the planned gigs, tours and festivals for the bands I manage have been cancelled and the festivals and major events I am involved with annually such as The NMG Awards, Oxjam, Strawberry Fair and the Big Weekend have either been cancelled or are in serious doubt.

How have you adapted to these challenges?

The bands I manage have tried to increase their presence on social media by live streaming and producing video content but it's difficult. I have been involved in producing content for Virtual Strawberry Fair and the Big Weekend at Home which are two online versions of the city's major music events.

What lessons have you and/or the industry learned, do you think, from this situation?

I think we've all learnt to be more innovative and creative during these times using advanced technology available to us, this may prove to be helpful for streamlining organisations or saving costs in the future.

How can we support you?

Tune into the New Music Generator which I host each week on Wednesday nights from 7pm on Cambridge 105 Radio. I do my best to keep the music alive and shine the spotlight on the still-thriving community.

newmusicgenerator.com

cambridge105.co.uk

Elliot Porter, musician

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected what you do?

As a working musician, the effects have been comprehensive! At the start of the pandemic, all of my work for the next six months was pretty much wiped out in the space of two weeks, this included touring dates in the UK and Europe, private bookings and weddings - both in the UK and Europe.

How have you adapted to these challenges?

I was one of the early adopters of “the new normal” online. I started playing live stream gigs and set up a paypal link to try and earn some donations - a bit like virtual busking!

In the first week I set up a platform for musicians called Isolation Gigs which allowed musicians to post their live stream gigs in one place and allowed music fans to gather virtually to enjoy some live music. We also run a weekly podcast talking about isolation, mental health and music in general in this situation.

I have also started doing more remote recording. I put together a group of musicians called The Isolation Artists and we have recorded and released a single for the NHS called 'Be More Kind' - a Frank Turner cover.

What is giving you hope or inspiration?

People have actually given me hope and inspiration. The kindness shown from musicians and members of the public in supporting our charitable cause, with no questions asked about fees or costs (at a tough time) has been quite uplifting and heartwarming.

What lessons have you and/or the industry learned, do you think, from this situation?

I think the industry has had to learn some very hard lessons. Before lockdown, I felt that there was a big disparity between the artist and venues/the industry as a whole. People have always been the golden commodity - getting people in a room has always been a challenge, getting people to buy records/merchandise etc. When the old methods were stripped away, I found that artists became more innovative - no longer so reliant on the gatekeepers and started connecting more directly with their fans, albeit virtually.

How can we support you?

I would love people to donate to our Just Giving page which supports the NHS Charities Together as part of our 'Be More Kind' campaign: justgiving.com/fundraising/bemorekind20

What have you got coming up that you'd like to publicise?

I have just released 'Be More Kind' along with 17 other artists - many Cambridge-based. You can find it here: youtu.be/Fdyi3s_AVOg

I am also releasing a new single 'Brighton Song' in the Autumn. You can preview that here: open.spotify.com/track/0Cu5I944eepVhj5iOeIYwb?si=nRalzhS0QWCwJRcXjURB6A

elliotporter.co.uk

Ian Clarke, The Apex, Bury St Edmunds

Ian Clarke: The Apex (37246375)
Ian Clarke: The Apex (37246375)

How has the covid-19 pandemic affected what you do?

The Apex is completely closed - no musicians, no audience members, no-one sitting in the café, no yoga classes and no work colleagues around.It is still a beautiful building but we are desperate for people to bring it back to life again.

How have you adapted to these challenges?

There’s still a lot of work to be done and the amazing team have been working really hard refunding tickets for cancelled concerts, keeping in touch with ticket holders and rearranging shows.

Who has impressed you with an innovative approach to the challenges?

There are some amazing videos flying around with musicians playing in their own houses but together. Most recently we have loved the amazing Callum Au arrangement of ‘Into the Unknown’ from Frozen 2 put together by trumpeter Louis Dowdeswell with the most extraordinary line up of jazzers: youtu.be/ShIoFhwGWTs

How can we support you?

Keep in touch and be ready to come back and support live music when it is safe to do so.

theapex.co.uk

Simon Edwards, Flying Pig Keeping Cambridge Music Live campaign

How have you adapted to the challenges of Covid-19?

Before lockdown began it was clear to me the more vulnerable, and those working with vulnerable people were not always able to enjoy live music so I started streaming live events from pubs. Then when the pubs and music venues closed, I also started a chat group to connect musicians with music lovers, arranging live on-line streaming of the musicians from their homes. The chat group grew rapidly and when lockdown began, I created the Flying Pig Promotions Keeping Cambridge Music Live Facebook Group.

I arrange for musicians to live stream their music with two to three musicians playing every night. I do sound and video checks several days before they perform and make sure they have the confidence, software, and equipment to live stream their music.

What do you feel most sad about, when you think about what has changed?

Many friends have lost significant income. This, along with the uncertainty of what they will do in the future, has resulted in a great deal of stress.It is difficult to see how they can make a living from music with the need for social distancing, and so many of them are looking at alternatives.

How can we support you?

By far the best way for live music lovers to show support is to watch the live music and get involved as much as possible.Everybody loves positive feedback and no more so than musicians, so I encourage viewers to use the live chat feedback to communicate with the musicians, as well as provide feedback after the event. Many musicians have a way for viewers to provide tips and it does not matter how small or large a tip is, it is always appreciated.

What have you got coming up that you'd like to publicise?

Flying Pig Promotions has live music events every night of the week, every second week on a Saturday night we run a three-hour event called The Inspiration Sessions where musicians play two covers that have inspired two original songs and they play these four songs over a 20 minute sessions.We interview the musicians and discuss what inspires them and how the current situation is affecting them. We run an open calendar, and have live streaming music every night of the week.

facebook.com/groups/keepingcambridgemusiclive/

Viv Halton, conductor of Cambridge Wind Band and musician

Viv Halton (37246379)
Viv Halton (37246379)

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected what you do?

Everything instantly stopped! Cambridge Wind Band were preparing for their biggest concert of the year in West Road Concert Hall. The concert should have been on 4 April. The Perse School where we rehearse weekly shut its doors and very shortly after the country went into lockdown.

No weekly rehearsals since we went into lockdown. I had concerts with The Sampson Orchestra and City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra in the diary which have had to be cancelled. School concerts and any functions have all been obliterated.

How can we support you?

When we get out, please come to concerts. Bring your family. Our concerts are very accessible and we have a lot of return trade! Live music is fabulous, it has to be experienced to fully understand the excitement and rush of emotion you get.

What have you got coming up that you'd like to publicise?

I’d say keep an eye on our website camwindband.com and for our brightly coloured posters and ‘like’ us on Facebook.

Mark Boxall, Mammoth Penguins

Mark Boxall: Mammoth Penguins (39152461)
Mark Boxall: Mammoth Penguins (39152461)

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected what you do?

The first big impact it had on us as a band was the cancellation of SXSW Festival in Austin Texas. We were due to play a showcase and a few day parties throughout the week. We had some meetings set up with US labels and promoters. We were all really excited about going.

We were self-funding our trip so we had a few fundraiser gigs leading up to it. Obviously playing and attending gigs is now off the cards for everyone. We’d also booked some studio time to record demos for our next album, but we haven’t been able to be in the same room to write and record. So we’ve had to cancel that.

How have you adapted to these challenges?

Mammoth Penguins haven’t really been able to work around being apart, but separately, we’ve each managed to do a few other things to keep our musical juices flowing. Tom and I have been able to contribute to some new demos for The Pony Collaboration, and early on in lockdown I started working on some new songs with Xav and Rhys from Violet Woods, which was a lot of fun.

Emma has managed to play a couple of online gigs. It’s nice for me to watch those, but it’s not the same as standing next to her while she does it. She’s also been busy with the release of her solo album, which was mostly recorded a couple of years ago now and it’s great that people will finally get to hear it.

What do you feel most sad about, when you think about what has changed?

In terms of Mammoth Penguins, I’m sad that we can’t play music together. I’m sad that we didn’t get to play on the roof of a shot bar in Austin (which incidentally would have been my first time in the US ever. What an introduction). I’m sad that we won’t be recording our new album, or probably even playing a gig this year.

What lessons have you and/or the industry learned, do you think, from this situation?

I’ve learned that there are venues, music shops, studios and rehearsal rooms that I really miss standing in. I really hope they’re all still there when I’m allowed to stand in them again.

How can we support you?

Probably the best way to support us at the moment would be to donate to a crowdfunder for your favourite local music venue. We’re going to need them to be there when all of this is over.

mammothpenguins.com

Justin Crane, 20Hz

Justin Crane: 20Hz (37246421)
Justin Crane: 20Hz (37246421)

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected what you do?

The concept behind 20Hz was always to be a platform for musicians, promoters, and venues - giving everyone a way to connect, promote, and perform with ease. With the introduction of the lockdown, we pushed live streaming to the front and centre and the venue and event-based features had to be hidden until we can all go back to live events.

What do you feel most sad about, when you think about what has changed?

While there is no shortage of online events occurring now, nothing beats the feeling of a hot, crowded room, full of like-minded people, all there to have the best time. Double down that with the fact venues have suffered, some permanently, and the cancellation and postponement of events and festivals it has had a negative impact on the industry as a whole.

What is giving you hope or inspiration?

It’s allowed the altruistic and community side of music to be seen: from well-known artists such as Frank Turner doing a regular weekly stream to raise money for venues, to musicians using the 20Hz live streaming service to raise donations to local charities and good causes.

What lessons have you and/or the industry learned, do you think, from this situation?

No one was ready for this to happen. If musicians are given the right platform to live stream whenever they want, then they will have a better opportunity to keep earning and to support themselves, should the second wave of isolation be forced on us.

How can we support you?

A website is only as good as its audience so it’s vital we get the word of 20Hz out to both artists and fans alike as much as we can. We’re hoping that word of mouth will have a snowball effect to bring a different and effective way to complement the live experience.

20hz.com

Andrea Cockerton, We Are Sound

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected what you do?

I run a Cambridge based musical collective called We Are Sound that was just beginning a small tour of our ‘In The Dark’ sound experiences.We had to cancel the tour and refund all the tickets . Lockdown has had an ongoing impact for us in that we’re unable to meet for our weekly rehearsals.We’ve moved online, but I didn’t feel it was right to keep charging the singers as if nothing had changed (they pay subs for rehearsals) so have switched to a ‘pay what you can afford’ model.I’ve lost around a third of my income as a result, and had to cancel the bookings with the instrumentalists and crews lined up to make the gigs possible, so they’ve also lost their income from us (and most of their other income too).

How have you adapted to these challenges?

We went through an intense period of trying out various remote rehearsal options. Through trialling all the different software, we came up with a midway solution of hooking up Zoom to a program called Logic Pro, where I record every single line of singing in each track. In real time during rehearsals, I now play parts of this back - the singers feel more like they’re in a choir, but it takes a reasonable amount of tech savviness to pull this off…and of course it’s not the real thing.However, we’re pushing ahead and all adapting as best we can.

Alongside this I’ve launched an online gig concept called #LOCKJAM to bring paid work to the musicians I know, and - hopefully in the long term - raise funds for other freelance musicians and sound crews out of work due to covid-19. The shows we’re creating are being requested for weddings-that-should-have-been, virtual end of term parties, alumni events, corporate events and more… which is wonderful.Music connects people, and I guess #LOCKJAM is helping that happen.

What lessons have you and/or the industry learned, do you think, from this situation?

To always innovate (and for the innovation to be focused on what people need); to be efficient with how you run your ship so that you’re not spending unnecessarily; and that the music industry has to pull together to survive and grow in this new world.

How can we support you?

By spreading the word about #LOCKJAM - we’d love to help more people with their virtual celebrations while they can’t be together.We’re also looking for established artists to do #LOCKJAMs to help raise more funds so do spread the word if you know any.Also, come to the shows - they’ve been described as ‘the best night we’ve had in lockdown’ and we think you’ll love them.

What have you got coming up that you'd like to publicise?

We’re going to be doing two special shows in August - one will be a ‘cafe del mar’ chill out #LOCKJAM for all those that wish they were holidaying abroad, bringing beach club vibes into gardens and living rooms across the UK, and the second will be more of a world music theme in late August in the hope of an Indian Summer...

thelockjam.com

Simon Baker, Green Mind promotions

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected what you do?

Sadly all the models involving social distancing make our work unviable.Most venues are reduced to around 20 per cent of capacity even on 1m social distancing. Currently most of us are working on events for next year with no income.

How have you adapted to these challenges?

We’ve spent an awful lot of time rescheduling shows.We also started a crowdfunder, which we’d initially been reticent to do, but we needed some income so we could start shows again without having to take a bank loan out!

What do you feel most sad about, when you think about what has changed?

The loss of the social aspect of it all and the thrill of seeing a band play a blinder.The whole reason I do this is because I love the noise, the audiences and the buzz all that creates.

What is giving you hope or inspiration?

The music industry has really rallied together.It can be quite cut throat, but when the chips are down everyone’s adapting and working together. I’ve spoken to people more on the phone in the last few months than I have done in the last ten years!

What lessons have you and/or the industry learned, do you think, from this situation?

To borrow a cliché, be more kind.

Who has impressed you with an innovative approach to the challenges?

Some of the live streaming stuff has been really inspiring, when done well. People utilising venues in particular. Laura Marling is one that springs to mind.

How can we support you?

The single biggest thing is WRITE TO YOUR MP. Our sector could disappear if the government doesn’t support it. The cost of bailout compared to what we generate in terms of tourism, the cultural benefits etc is relatively small.

What have you got coming up that you'd like to publicise?

Green Mind turns 20 in 2021 and we’re working on a week of shows from 20 to 27 Februarywhich feature some bands that have really inspired us.We can’t reveal many of the details yet, but we’ve got Lanterns On The Lake in the middle playing Storey’s Field Centre, who we absolutely adore.

greenmind.co.uk

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