Stevie G: The only certainty is more uncertainty

When we do eventually emerge from the Covid pandemic I’ve no doubt the hunger for live music and events and clubbing and festivals will be strong, says Stevie G
Stevie G: The only certainty is more uncertainty

The live music scene has been quietened, but we must continue to support it where we can.

THE pandemic continues to play havoc with us all and the music industry is struggling in a big way. Even the big artists are being badly affected, as touring is one of the main ways to make money out of music. But it’s at the grassroots where things will be felt most. 

In Ireland and elsewhere there have been calls for more government intervention, but ultimately, whenever we do emerge from this, the landscape will have changed significantly for all involved in the industry.

Recently in Ireland, the #This iswhoweare campaign, organised by the Epic working group, started pushing the needs of the 3,500 full time and 15,000 part time skilled event industry workers they represent. This includes everyone from DJs and bands to promoters and sound engineers, in an industry which brings a lot of money into the economy every year. The campaign aims to help such workers get a bigger break regarding Covid and wage subsidies, and predicts that most of the industry will be largely out of work until next summer at least. It’s about time this industry had its own lobby group, as various other groups, such as the vintners, will obviously only end up looking after their own at this tense time.

Many pubs are finally open in Cork as I write, but the uncertainty continues and there is a very real possibility of another lockdown on the horizon. Even those pubs that can open are doing so with significant restrictions, and even sound levels have to be kept to a minimum at the moment. There have been some gigs in some venues, and many have been pretty creative in doing stuff in a socially distanced way, but it’s difficult to make the maths work and the days of packed out venues seem a long way away now. At least some venues and artists (and all of the others involved) are getting some work though.

Others, such as popular Cork music pub Fred Zeppelins, have opted to stay closed, temporarily. Hopefully they will return soon. It’s pretty impossible to imagine such a bar without music. Tom from Fredz said this week: “It hasn’t been an easy decision to reach, but we have a government that treats hospitality, live entertainment and the events sector like something bad they’ve stepped on, that can be opened, closed and discarded whenever a non-elected committee with a bias against our industry decides, whether they have evidence or not.”

It’s pretty strong stuff from Tom, but you’d have to wonder why the same limitations have never been put on meat factories.

When we do eventually emerge from this we will be certainly down a good few venues and there are going to be a few more high-profile closures in the next few months. It’s a very sad situation for the many who work in these venues in a hospitality industry that we often celebrate in Ireland. As I’ve said during the summer a few times, Ireland markets itself as the country of great craic and live music, but the support for this industry has been fairly minuscule so far. I agree many clubs in particular should remain closed, but the whole industry will need a big bailout that I very much doubt will take place.

Artists who are releasing albums and singles this year continue to do their best online, and some are doing the socially distanced shows I mentioned above. Touring is pretty much non-existent now though, and even the shows that are on at the moment are in a precarious position if lockdown measures change. Artists and others in the industry will continue to create, but it’s been a very difficult time, and the winter might be even worse. If we do get back to normal in the next 12 to 18 months I’ve no doubt the hunger for live music and events and clubbing and festivals will be strong, as it has always survived through all the good and bad times of the last 100 years or so.

But who will be still standing? In the good times it was difficult enough to do music full time, and many of those in the industry are holding down other jobs too. Those full time in music will have always worked under a cloud of uncertainty, but as we enter a month which was traditionally the busiest in Cork for music events, that cloud is growing ever darker sadly.

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