How to Save Music in a Pandemic: Lessons from a Local Music Documentary


If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that many of our old ways of life are not sustainable in the current COVID-era. It exposed that many of our lowest paid workers: musicians, artists, grocery workers, etc., are the ones that need the largest overhaul to how we value them.

Chelsea Christer, Director of local music documentary Bleeding Audio, has spent years studying the mechanisms of the music industry through her documentary work and thinks that fans need to change how they interact with the artists they love.

Bleeding Audio follows local legends The Matches on their journey and folly through the music world. An amazingly entertaining story of a band that you may or may not know, but by the end you can’t help fall in love with their genuine, yet crazy, personalities.

At the heart of this feature lies community. The community the band cultivated through all-age shows, the community of young artist they propagated by being open minded to new local bands, and the community that made their single reunion show into a mini world tour.

Community was what Director Chelsea Christer says made The Matches successful, but it’s also what she says is needed more now than ever.

“I think the main thing to be hyper-aware of, especially currently given the nature of this pandemic, is an artist’s only form of income is now touring,” said Christer. “As a consumer you see the immediate benefit of that. You’re getting an experience. Which is very exciting and a worthy investment.”

“Touring is great,” Christer continued. “But the extent to which artists have to tour have to make a living is not sustainable. It can cause mental health problems, it can cause all other types of health issues.”

In a world without touring, many bands have struggled to find way of producing new revenue. Christer says these old modalities can no longer be viable sources of income and that some of the change has to come from how consumers interact with musicians and other artists.

“As consumers we just need to be more conscious about how we’re consuming our art and how we’re supporting artists,” said Christer. “It’s a cyclical relationship. If we are not supporting our artists then they wont be able to stick around.”

While artists are finding new ways to monetize their art again in our “new normal” Christer lamented the fact that basically “everything but the music makes money” for the artists these days. Saying that streaming companies also share the blame for low streaming payouts and forcing bands to rely heavily on exhausting touring schedules to make ends meet.

While lesser known sites like Bandcamp allow artists to keep large, if not all, of the profits of their music, large companies like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal, all pay fractions of cents per stream. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reported in the first half of 2020 that 85% of music revenue was from streaming services.

Thankfully, legislation like Music Modernization Act (2018) are a step in the right direction for royalties on streamed songs. The government-run licensing office, Mechanical Licensing Collective, even launched just three weeks ago which will mark a big win for streamed royalties in the States. However, the pandemic as already caused heavy damage to the music industry.

“A lot of musicians are not going to be musicians after the pandemic because of no longer having a touring income, which is really scary,” Christer pointed out. “The pandemic is at risk loosing those venues and those event workers that would then create spaces for artists to tour and make money.”

Though, live music won’t reappear at least for several more months, Christer reminds us that music is usually what gets us through the day and encouraged listeners to support artists now more than ever on a direct level.”

“I just think it’s very important for us to maybe take a step back right now and think, ‘what has gotten me through my day-to-day?’ and you realized it’s probably music and maybe buy a vinyl record instead of just paying your subscription fees, or a t-shirt, or a coffee mug.”

Bleeding Audio is a selection at the upcoming Slamdance Film Festival and will be available to screen via virtual presentation from February 12 – 25th. Get tickets at www.slamdance.com or find additional information about where to catch Bleeding Audio here.

 

 

 

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