ALL PHOTOS: Unsplash
Bringing Music to a Wider Demographic
THE infamous Storm Emma has brought…
chaos and disruption to the U.K. over the past few days. I live in the South and, although it has been alright where I am; the slightest flicker of snow and we descend into helpless pigeons - the much-mentioned 'Beast from the East' sunk his teeth in! We have never been good at coping with the weather: any time adverse conditions arise; the nation loses the plot and it is incredibly difficult to get around. I guess we are not used to the sort of deep and relentless snow the country saw this week. It has passed now and, whilst parts of the U.K. clean up (others are still stranded), it made me think about music and transportation. Many artists took to social media to explain how they were unable to get to gigs and move around. Whether travelling by train, car or bus; it was a hard task getting anywhere local – let alone gigs further up the country. The worst has passed but the past few days have highlighted some problems that affect the music industry. Bad weather is not an all-year-round issue but it is getting harder for artists to survive and prosper if gigs have to be cancelled. I know there is no way we can control the weather but, given heavy snow will curtail gigs and create problems for artists out there; should we think about alternative ways of bringing music to the people?
I am not sure how many artists managed to get to gigs this week but it seems many were cancelled or rescheduled. They rely on public transport, and so, when that is thwarted by the weather – what are they going to do to get around the problem?! The only way to avoid delays and the sort of inconvenience we have seen is to tackle the weather in more pragmatic ways. We know snow and flooding (or whatever) will slow the country down – so why has the Government not taken measures to get the roads cleared and people on the go?! There has been huge frustration emerging from the fact we have all been less mobile than we are used to. Streaming sites like Spotify are growing and getting larger by the day. I have explored the possibility of making video streaming and gigs more prevalent. Facebook Live makes it possible for artists to broadcast live and reach millions. I have found problems with the platform and wonder if it is as stable and slick as it should be. I have watched videos where the connection cuts and the sound are not great. It can be hard getting a great and fulfilling experience that way. With aspects like weather affected so many people and causing havoc; should we look at other methods for artists to get to their fans? I will mention another element of society (more, in fact) who suffer mobility issues. When we are faced with storms and challenging conditions; it thwarts the best-willing out there and throws a spanner in the works!
I am not sure about the logistics and technology involved but, when looking at the virtual capabilities around; one would imagine creating a slick and all-encompassing service would be possible. When rolling this out, you have to consider how utilitarian it needs to be. I am thinking about those who cannot get to venues or gigs; artists marooned and playing solo to those watching at home – others who cannot make it to gigs for reasons other than the weather. Even in someone’s home; making sure the sound and video quality is top-notch is a major consideration. Combining the services of YouTube and Spotify, perhaps, it could be a free service which would make it possible for anyone unable to get to a gig to see the artist from their home. I know YouTube allows you to broadcast live; Facebook has a service and I am sure, somewhere out there, a similar idea exists. The drawbacks extend beyond sound and video quality: it is the way they are marketed and the flexibility of the concept. There are debates around gigs/costs and how much people should pay to see a top artist – I would like to see an idea that extends to larger concerts and makes it possible for anyone, anywhere to see any artist they like. There would have to be a negotiation and discussion regards cost – you cannot expect someone to watch a Radiohead concert free at home whilst others pay to see it live – but that would be something to negotiate.
There are new artists who rely on gigs and revenue so, with the weather scuppering plans; there needs to be fall-back and recourse. Those bands/artists who have to trudge up the country and spent money reaching people should not have to suffer because of the bad weather. If they were able to convene somewhere safe and broadcast from a space; broadcast over the Internet and provide as clear and cinematic performance as possible – that would open doors and give options when the harsh weather strikes. I said I would mention other factions into this piece. It is not only bad weather that impacts musicians and causes disappointment. I feel we have this image of older people being confined to home and having no interest in music. That jaded and cliché viewpoint of the older human remains: they will tell stories of the past and are more comfortable around the T.V. or listening to BBC Radio 4. I can bet you, if you open their ears to what is out there; they would be more engaged and connected with the outside world. Mobility, cost and convenience affect them more than most people. I know there are artists they want to see and, if you look at it; there are modern acts, they might not be aware of, they’d take a fancy to. The fact their pensions do not stretch to a gig ticket is a disability.
They are less agile and mobile; health issues restrict their movements more - and it can be hard to integrate in spaces usually filled with younger bodies. The social aspect of a streaming service would mean, through text or video; fans of all ages can interact mid-song or after the gig. This service could be connected to a T.V. so you would watch a gig on a larger screen. I would be up for that and, whilst I am able to get around without constriction; my busy working life means I am not able to travel and get out as much as I would like. The elderly are often confined to the home and miss out on music a lot. The radio is a source they can get into all sorts of sounds – it does not give them the sensation of a gig, though. The same is true of the disabled. There are schemes that allow them transportation to gigs and, when there, access and seating. Many are unable to leave home and do not even have the ability to travel. I am sure there are even more people in society who yearn to see live music but are limited for one reason or another. I realised a televised broadcast is not the same as actually being there and experiencing the natural environment. Maybe there are affordable ways of doing this but, for now, I am thinking about musicians and those who want to see gigs.
So, then: what of the solution and making it easier for people and musicians to connect? You might say a fix-all initiative would render venues useless altogether – as you could see any gig from your home. This is not a Netflix for lazy music listeners: this is a way of allowing artists unable to travel a way of broadcasting/earning; those less able and mobile a chance to see music. The fact there are tremendous new artists looking to expand their fanbase means connecting the elderly/disabled with their existing audience is a great thing. Music should not exclude and does not go out of its way to do so – it is hampered by various factors and not as connected as it should be. Britain is never good when it comes to preparing for the worst. The heroics of some people this week – defying the snow and helping others – is humbling. The bad weather seems to bring something great from the people. I did think, when seeing social media stories of artists stranded and frustrated; how we could fix the matter and provide options when all other avenues have been exhausted. It is about making music more accessible and putting less pressure on artists who need to get around.
The way to inspire change is to look at what we have at our disposal and how to best utilise it. I know there are streaming sites and video broadcasting: expanding that and making it affordable to broadcast into people’s homes would be a good way of bringing music to people who, normally, would miss out. Some might say this choice and option would mean fewer people going to see gigs. I would argue the reverse: it would bring new artists to foreign eyes and, when they see what they can do live; there is that temptation to come out and see them. The worst of the weather has passed but, as we look ahead; what do we do the next time the country is ravished by the weather?! It may only be a few days but it can cause a lot of damage and problems. Making sure older people and those with disabilities are not overlooked is vital, too. I do hope there is a common solution because, as this week has shown; we do struggle when things turn bad. Whilst children and office workers have revelled at the chance to take a day or two off: others, who cannot afford to take that time off have felt the pinch. Affecting a safety net and solution would ease the burden – for musicians and fans – and, in the process, open the music world up to people who, normally…
MISS out on such treats!