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Insights — 2 months ago

State of Play: The Music Industry

Four members of the global music community on why merch is their lifeline right now. 

 

Making a living as an artist is never easy, but the COVID-19 crisis looks set to pose a near-unprecedented challenge to creatives, musicians and artists alike, especially those early on in their career. 

 

It’s safe to say that few industries haven’t been hit by this unprecedented crisis, but so far one of the sharpest edges of the wedge has been the music industry. Safety takes priority in times like these, so it’s right that gigs and tours have been postponed and cancelled to try and mitigate the worst of the emergency. Still, the fragile ecosystem of venues, artists, and promoters has been left exposed by this sudden shortfall in vital income from live performances. 

 

Here Gramrcy, Andy Garvey, Colin Volvert AKA Rey Colino and Sam Ford reflect on how the past few weeks have affected what they do, and why merch is acting as a lifeline. 

 

Shop from the Independent Music store here.

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Courtesy of Kalahari Oyster Cult

Gramrcy, Peach Discs

Berlin-based DJ Gramrcy runs record label Peach Discs, alongside Shanti Celeste.

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Courtesy of Gramrcy

“Even at this relatively early stage, in terms of how I’ve been affected in Western Europe, the crisis has had a huge impact on what I do. All of my DJ gigs have been cancelled, and my work as a freelance writer and graphic designer has all but dried up as the people I work with and for have to, understandably, scale back their operations in order to weather this storm. The fact that there is no clear end in sight is the most daunting thing for me right now.”

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PEACH009, illustration by Shanti celeste and design by Gramrcy

“The ability to sell merch is hugely important now. Our work revolves around making, releasing and playing music to people in clubs, and that’s something that – for the time being – has been taken away from us. Selling merch allows us to maintain that connection while keeping us afloat at the same time.”

Merch allows us to maintain a connection, while keeping us afloat

“The two shirts we just released follow on from the success of PEACH007 – our collaboration with Call Super, in that we chose to take elements from the artwork originally designed for a record cover and make that work on a T-shirt. We’re really happy with how they came out!” 

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Courtesy of Shanti Celeste. Painting by Shanti Celeste and design by Gramrcy.

“While it’s undoubtedly – and understandably – tough right now, I’m doing my best to think positively about the future of our industry. The reaction to the recent “Bandcamp Day” (or whatever you want to call it) was humbling to say the least, and showed me that people really want to support each other when times are tough. It’s clear now more than ever that we have to look out for one another (oh, and diversify your revenue streams!)”

Shop Peach Disc’s releases here

Andy Garvey, Pure Space

A key figure in Australia’s music scene, producer Andy Garvey runs radio show and label Pure Space from Sydney.

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Courtesy of Andy Garvey

“It’s been a really crazy week. I have had both an Australian and European tour postponed, and it’s been mentally exhausting letting go of those opportunities. I think for so many artists we are really energised and motivated by our goals and to so suddenly be put on pause is a new experience, and one I am still mentally trying to work through.”

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Courtesy of Andy Garvey

“At the best of times Pure Space is not a lucrative business. So far I have personally financed the label with my artist fees, and now that that income source is on hold I’m turning to merch to assist.”

“I’ve been very transparent about why I am doing this run of merch, and it’s been really lovely how receptive fans have been. I know across the board so many people are struggling through this crisis so for those who are financially stable enough to support the label, I am so thankful!”

To so suddenly be put on pause is a new experience

Colin Volvert AKA Rey Colino, KALAHARI OYSTER CULT

Hailing from Belgium but now Amsterdam-based, Colin runs record label Kalahari Oyster Cult, as well as working at the record store Bordello A Parigi.

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Courtesy of Kalahari Oyster Cult

“Literally each and every link of the music industry we have seen collapse, one after the other. After gigs have been ‘rescheduled,’ we’ve seen most small shops close down due to government measures, including ours. So far, only distribution is still running, but we have no idea for how long and to what extent. Bandcamp and our fans’ support has been of great help so far, we can’t thank them enough.”

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Courtesy of Kalahari Oyster Cult

Right now merch is essential, we need to find some sort of income outside of selling and playing music to keep our heads above water for the time being.”

“Besides the surge of solidarity that we’re already seeing, only time will tell how this will look in the future. But one thing is for sure, this has and will hit us hard.”

Sam Ford, So Young Magazine

Sam Ford is co-founder and editor of So Young Magazine. So Young champions new bands and artists both at home in the U.K. and internationally, as well as hosting exhibitions, live shows and festival stages too.

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Courtesy of @wildernessrecs

“So far our day-to-day is generally unaffected as Josh and I, and our contributors too, work from our homes already. Already though, we’ve had three shows cancelled due to the virus, as well as The Great Escape where we would’ve been hosting a stage. The biggest effect on the magazine has been losing the financial security from advertising income. As the live music industry has taken a huge hit, our regular advertisers have had to take a step back because of the uncertainty of what they can promote and how much they can commit to marketing right now. This means that we are now reliant on people supporting the magazine and buying it in print for us to continue. So Young also relies somewhat on the release schedule of bands, and with these now changing daily it’s made our planning and content more uncertain.”

The ball is now firmly in the courts of the supporters

“We’ve been guiding people towards our print magazine in the hope that people can check out and discover So Young how it was intended. Where it’s also free online, we all have a habit of taking things for granted…especially in the music industry. Our hope is that people will find it in print, see the difference and want to continue collecting So Young for years to come.”

“The ball is now firmly in the courts of the fans, supporters, punters, readers and listeners. The world we are in now – where venues aren’t open, music isn’t being recorded or released, and print magazines are in jeopardy – is the potential permanent state without people supporting each other. You need to buy a ticket, buy a T-shirt, buy a magazine and spread the word, as the whole independent industry will be struggling when it returns.”

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Porridge Radio illustrated by Adrian Forrow, courtesy of So Young Magazine

“I think the potential positive is that we may now see a reset in people’s mentality, and hopefully a reality check of what it really means to be a supporter. We are so grateful for our readers and it brings a huge amount of joy to see the same names come through on our orders list. Hopefully we can add a few more!”

Shop So Young’s sweater here

Read More: Find out about our Community Broadcast series.

Michael Wilkin
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Michael Wilkin
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