COVID-19 and the Live Music Experience

I’m not sure what choice to make.
I had a couple of decisions made for me; Pearl Jam and Zac Brown Band postponed their current tours, so I won’t be covering those shows, had my media requests been approved.
However, I covered Jonathan Wilson’s appearance in Toronto the other night and I’ve been approved to cover Theo Katzman’s Opera House show. I really want to attend it on Saturday, but I need to consider several things.
Am I putting myself into a crowd that potentially could contain a member carrying COVID-19?
Does shooting and reviewing a show make any sense in this current and questionable environment?
Am I not only putting my wife and children at additional risk but also the elderly people in my life?
Am I bowing to uncertainty and paranoia by fearing an evening out in a city with very few cases and no signs of rampant spread?
The closest I can figure is yes to all.
And yet, I find myself with choices to make that have little negative outcomes. I miss a show, it doesn’t get covered and I get to spend another night wearing sweats and likely eating junk out of a bag while watching a TV show. Okay, maybe that’s not ultimate safety, but you get the idea. The worst thing is that potentially someone doesn’t read my review and isn’t influenced to check out that artist’s show in their city or they don’t become interested in checking out that artist’s music thus ending a cycle of fandom before it even started. The butterfly effect being that one less paying fan puts a little less operating income into that artist’s bank account.

But it also raises the MUCH larger issue that we’re already seeing. With the cancellation of SXSW and postponement of Coachella, Stagecoach and Treefort in the US, we see the reality of how close the financial margins are for these festivals. Most rely on the previous year’s take to fund the following year’s edition. SXSW fears that they may not recover to produce a 2021 version. I know there are many people out there who chuckle at the idea of troupes of sad influencers who won’t be able to post their thousands of headdress-wearing selfies in front of the Coachella Ferris wheel, but the reality isn’t just lost ticket sales and purchases. It’s scores of support staff and vendors who won’t be getting paid or won’t be getting money back for their investments into working these festivals. Food vendors may have prepaid for their supplies. Everyone from the garbage crew to the audio/video teams won’t be collecting a paycheque. Less so for Coachella than SXSW, numbers of bands who planned to hit the road for club tours, vans packed with merch and eyeing to arrive back home with a larger fan base and some money to fund the next recording or tour will have to do without this spring. Even if they chose to tour, would they be playing shows to near-empty venues or have dates cancelled by venues that are locking their doors till things look rosier? Deeper and darker, will the bands stay together if they can’t support themselves and will these venues ever reopen if there aren’t bands to fill them with thirsty fans? The questions are real and the answers look bleak.

Here in the ADDICTED Music Dept., we’ve told our contributors that the choice is ultimately theirs to make but that we encourage them to cancel any coverage that puts them into large and potentially virulent crowds. Likely venues and bands will make the decisions for us all as we contemplate the value and the risk is seeing live music. And this is just a small and seemingly insignificant aspect of the terrible and unknown effects of this pandemic. Lives will be lost, lives will be hopefully only temporarily ruined. But we’ll be seeing a change in many varied things based on what’s happening right now. And what happens over the next few weeks and months, we can only hope for the best.

The only advice to give it to repeat what the scientific voices are saying.

Wash your hands regularly
Cough and sneeze into a bent elbow
Avoid touching everything
If you don’t feel well, stay at home
And keep at least three feet away from everyone, which really means you should avoid large gatherings of people.

What you can do from the safety of your own home is spend a few bucks buying something from your favourite artists’ online store to help them weather the storm until the world gets a better handle on COVID-19.

Be well, stay well. Avoid frenzied toilet paper purchases.

Aron Harris
Aron Harris is ADDICTED Magazine's music editor as well as a contributor. As a graphic designer, writer and photographer, you can find his work all over ADDICTED. He also geeks out over watches, pizza, bass guitars and the Grateful Dead.