EASY ED’S BROADSIDE: How Can Musicians Help Their Fans?
I’m a 68-year-old man with underlying heart and respiratory medical conditions. Last year I spent several months undergoing three surgeries and treatments for several types of skin cancer, one of which would have been fatal had it not been discovered when it was. Never imagined I would have a team of doctors who take care of me, but if you met me on the street you likely wouldn’t have a clue that I was anything but healthy. And for the most part, I am. The keyword in regard to my health is “underlying,” so as long as nothing comes along to upset that apple cart, all is well with me.
As far as my financial health, what had been termed by some just two weeks ago as the greatest economy in the history of America has been completely upended. The business where I earn my living is closed until further notice, whatever that means. My small investment in a 401(k) plan is now microscopic. After my next paycheck is deposited, I am in the dark as to if and when another one will come forth. I have stocked, but not hoarded, my pantry with food, medicine, and those ever elusive rolls of toilet paper. That alone has placed me in a much better position than most of the world population, yet it hardly allays the fear, anxiety, isolation, depression, bad thoughts, and daily visions of what potentially will be the worst-case scenario. And from my daily contacts with friends around the globe, it appears that we’re all waiting for the next shoe to drop. That’s how it goes, everybody knows.
As a music writer I am in touch with a vast network of musicians, as well as those who run concert halls, clubs, festivals, and house concerts. Please pardon my language, but from all of the communiques and pleas I’m receiving, they’re all fucked. No other way to put it, but the fragile economy and supporting ecosystem of artistic creation in whatever form it takes has been shattered to pieces in a matter of days. From the most popular and successful musicians out on the road with a half-dozen 18-wheelers of equipment and luxury tour buses to the person who barely makes a living playing bar mitzvahs and weddings on the weekend, this viral scourge is completely indiscriminate.
Over the past week my inbox has been filled daily with requests to help support musicians. There are livestreamed concerts popping up with tip jars, websites to donate to money to non-working musicians, and of course reminders that you can and should buy merch. Our editor here at nodepression.com, Stacy Chandler, published a super helpful article titled “How To Help Roots Music Artists” that I would encourage y’all to read. Nevertheless, all of these solicitations and cries for help have left me feeling guilty for my inability to participate. I’ll share part of what I posted on my Facebook page after reading Stacy’s suggestions:
While people who are in the creative community have little or no safety net, there is an assumption that those of us with day jobs have the wherewithal to assist. The reality is that we too are hunkering down, worried if we can pay the rent, if we will get a paycheck next week, can afford food and medical care, and on and on. So I guess that while there are some things I can do — like not requesting a refund to a canceled concert, of which I currently have $350 invested — l simply can’t be made to feel guilty because I won’t buy your T-shirt.
My heart breaks every minute that I get a message or see a social media post from a musician who’s lost all their source of income, lost money on preparing for travel they can’t get refunded, or have invested every dime in a new project set to release when the world is too overloaded with worries on survival. So no answers here, and this article touches on significant ways to at least think about or consider.
If you thought that the headline of this column was insensitive or perhaps simply a grasp for clicks, you’re wrong. The roots music community is fortunate in that we’re small enough that musicians are close to their audience. Years on the road have created relationships and established bonds, and social media opens the door for personal communication. It’s not simply the music that connects us, it’s the spirit of being part of a community. And words matter.
Ana Egge, who recently released an album and had to cancel shows in Texas opening for Iris DeMent, posted this simple message that gave me some perspective as well as some comfort:
“While these are scary and crazy days, let’s not forget that these are also days that we are living to have more of. Especially those of us lucky enough to be stuck at home with the people we love. We can’t let ourselves be overrun by fear and anxiety and miss out on this time that we have together. To love each other and share our lives. If you’re not in the same house or apartment with those you love, call them and tell them.”
Jason Isbell tweeted: “Sitting here thinking of folks who might be stuck in a house that isn’t safe. Maybe if you have a friend who has a potentially aggressive spouse or parent, be as aware as you can right now. Check in.” and he posted the link for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Brandi Carlile shared a helpful list of things people can do to protect themselves and their community, and Rosanne Cash wrote, “I got home off the road last night & am self-quarantining until the CDC gives the all-clear. I was on a lot of planes & in a lot of airports, hotels & venues. I don’t know if I’ve been exposed, & I don’t want to expose you. Let’s do this together, apart.”
These are just a few examples of musicians using their thoughts and words to help and connect with their audience, and I know there’s plenty more. Personally, it means a lot and touches me deeply when the people who enrich my life with their music take the time to let me know they are thinking about me as much as I’m thinking about them. Y’all have a big voice, and we all appreciate it when you use it in these troubled times. Stay safe.
Many of my past columns, articles, and essays can be accessed here and at my own site, therealeasyed.com. I also aggregate news and videos on both Flipboard and Facebook as The Real Easy Ed: Americana and Roots Music Daily. My Twitter handle is @therealeasyed and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.