“Are you okay?”
I don’t have a great reply to the query. Realizing full effectively that I’m speaking back to an algorithm — even one asking the identical query of everybody with a special band mad-libbed in — doesn’t soften the blow. Am I? Are we? Is anybody, actually?
On this case, it’s referring to Waxahatchee. I imply, yeah, I completely listened to numerous Waxahatchee this 12 months. Waxahatchee is sweet. Saint Cloud was certainly one of my favourite albums of the 12 months. Katie Crutchfield’s music doesn’t exist within the Elliott Smith, Leonard Cohen bin for me. It’s not time to ship up the sign flares once you see the band throughout my Spotify social feed.
The Spotify roasting AI that’s been making the rounds this week is a enjoyable train in music snobbery. It additionally could also be brushing towards some bigger reality right here. One thing I feel all of us thought of at the very least in passing this 12 months when Spotify supplied its annual “Wrapped” 12 months in evaluation.
What’s the soundtrack to the worst 12 months, ever? What can we take heed to whereas the world burns? In 2009, a former CNN intern stumbled throughout a video tape within the archives labeled with the title, “Turner Doomsday Video.” The minute-long video incorporates a band taking part in, “Nearer My God To Thee,” believed to be the ultimate music performed by the band on the Titanic. It carried the express directions, “HFR [Hold for Release] until finish of the world confirmed.”
Barring any form of last-minute shock, it appears probably we’ll make it via 2020 shy of a full-on apocalypse (regardless of, maybe, one of the best efforts of some). However for me, Spotify’s 12 months in evaluation was a testomony to hell 12 months, simply as my Apple Watch train bars noticed a zeroing out in late-March and April, because the pandemic bore down on my residence of Queens, New York and I handled some private well being points.
What was pitched as a celebratory aggregation of my listening habits over the earlier 12 months exited the machine as a testomony to the lengthy stretches of time the place partaking with music felt like an impossibility. Ambient music and post-rock acquired me listening once more when lyrics appeared like an excessive amount of to course of. And I’m positive I’m not alone in having listened to some consolation tracks with an alarming frequency.
Wanting again is a helpful reminder of the position music performed in what undoubtedly qualifies because the worst 12 months so far for a lot of. It could be an overstatement to recommend that music saved my life in 2020, nevertheless it definitely cushioned the blow of 1 too many emotional intestine punches.
“Music can carry us out of melancholy or transfer us to tears – it’s a treatment, a tonic, orange juice for the ear,” the late-neurologist, Oliver Sacks wrote. “However for a lot of of my neurological sufferers, music is much more – it might present entry, even when no remedy can, to motion, to speech, to life. For them, music will not be a luxurious, however a necessity.”
Louis Armstrong put it much more succinctly: “music is life itself.”
It’s a merciless irony that, in a 12 months when music has meant a lot to so many, most musicians have struggled to make ends meet. The musical area definitely isn’t distinctive in that respect this 12 months, however their struggles have been pronounced in an period when streaming revenues provide fractions of cents what musicians make in file gross sales, and touring has turn into an important income stream for all however the largest names. For the previous 10 months, that every one however dried up.
“The pandemic totally decimated the live-music business,” Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy noted in a recent interview. “There’s been nearly a complete 12 months now of completely zero income.”
In Might, a survey from the Musician’s Union famous that 19% of musicians stated they could find yourself giving up their careers as a result of impression of COVID-19. Seven months later, one wonders whether or not that determine may need been optimistic.
Tweedy provides, “There will likely be locations to play. However the panorama received’t ever look the identical. I think about that numerous the extra intimate music venues will likely be gone, similar to numerous small companies and eating places.”
Bandcamp has been a beacon for a lot of. The service’s “Bandcamp Fridays,” which waive its income lower, have raised $40 million so far. The location has promised to proceed providing the function at the very least via Might of subsequent 12 months.
This 12 months’s struggles have served to focus on considerations over streaming royalties. Spotify has understandably been the focus for this dialog, all whereas the corporate has spent lots of of hundreds of thousands to bolster its podcast programming. CEO Daniel Ek didn’t do himself any favors in July when he famous, “Some artists that used to do effectively up to now might not do effectively on this future panorama, the place you possibly can’t file music as soon as each three to 4 years and suppose that’s going to be sufficient.”
In October, Justice at Spotify rep (and Galaxie 500 member) Damon Kurkowski informed me “[R]esponse from sure corners of the business has been as chilly as we anticipated: ‘You’re simply musicians and don’t perceive enterprise,’ is the essential gist of it. To which I might say: The issue we’re calling consideration to is exactly that musicians have been omitted of the dialog! We at all times come final in cost and in session — although our work is what the streaming enterprise is constructed on.”
The battle to outlive on music is nothing new, after all. Jazz genius Thelonious Monk famously had a benefactor in Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. However simply because we’ve failed musicians up to now doesn’t imply we are able to’t and shouldn’t do higher.
Am I okay? I’m nonetheless unsure, however listening to music appears to assist.