Music made 2020 higher, however we didn't handle to make 2020 higher for musicians


"Are you okay?"

I don't have a good answer to the question. Knowing that I'm talking back to an algorithm – even if someone asks the same question to everyone with another band that has gone crazy – doesn't mitigate the blow. Am i are we Is someone real

In this case it is referring to Waxahatchee. I mean, yeah, I've been listening to a lot of Waxahatchee this year. Waxahatchee is good. Saint Cloud was one of my favorite albums of the year. Katie Crutchfield's music doesn't exist for me in the Elliott Smith, Leonard Cohen Bin. It's not time to send the signal flares when you see the band all over my Spotify social feed.

The Spotify roasting AI that made the rounds this week is a fun exercise in music snobbery. It could also brush against a greater truth here. I think we all considered that at least in the passing of this year when Spotify offered its annual "Wrapped" year in retrospect.

What's the soundtrack for the worst year ever? What do we hear while the world burns? In 2009, a former CNN intern stumbled upon a videotape called "Turner Doomsday Video" in the archives. The minute-long video shows a band playing "Nearer My God To Thee," which is believed to be the last song the band will play on the Titanic. It contained the explicit instruction "HFR (Hold for Release) confirmed until the end of the world".

Last-minute surprises aside, chances are we can make it through 2020 without seeing a full apocalypse (despite perhaps the best efforts of some). But for me, Spotify's retrospective year was evidence of the hell year, just as my Apple Watch exercise bars zeroed out in late March and April when the pandemic settled at my Queens, New York home and I put some personal health issues down.

What has been seen as a solemn summary of my listening habits over the past 12 months has left the machine as evidence of the long periods of time in which it felt impossible to bother with music. Ambient music and post-rock made me listen again when the lyrics seemed to process too much. And I am sure that after listening to some comfort tracks with alarming frequency, I am not alone.

The flashback is a useful reminder of the role music played in what was for many, what was without a doubt the worst year. It would be an exaggeration to say that music saved my life in 2020, but it certainly cushioned the blow of one too many emotional belly blows.

"Music can free us from depression or move us to tears – it's a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear," wrote the late neurologist Oliver Sacks. “But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more – it can provide access to movement, language and life, even if no medication can. For them, music is not a luxury but a necessity. "

Louis Armstrong put it even more succinctly: "Music is life itself."

It's a cruel irony that in a year when music meant so much to so many, most musicians struggled to make ends meet. The music field is certainly not unique in that regard this year, but their struggles were pronounced at a time when streaming revenue offers fractions of cents musicians make on record sales and touring is the primary source of income for all but the biggest names. In the last 10 months that has almost dried up.

"The pandemic has completely decimated the live music industry," Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy stated in a recent interview. "There's been almost a full year now with absolutely zero income."

In May, a survey by the Musicians' Union found that 19% of musicians said they were giving up careers due to the effects of COVID-19. Seven months later, one wonders if that number could have been optimistic.

Tweedy adds, “There will be places to play. But the landscape will never look the same. I envision a lot of the more intimate music venues going to be gone, as well as a lot of small businesses and restaurants. "

Bandcamp was a beacon for many. The service's "Bandcamp Fridays", which waives its revenue cut, has raised $ 40 million to date. The website has promised to continue offering the feature at least until May next year.

This year's battles helped highlight concerns about streaming royalties. Spotify was understandably the focus of that conversation while the company has spent hundreds of millions improving its podcast programming. CEO Daniel Ek did himself a disservice in July by stating, “Some artists who used to do well may not do well in this future landscape where you can't record music every three to four years I guess that will be enough. "

In October Damon Kurkowski, Representative for Justice at Spotify (and a member of the Galaxie 500) told me: “(R) The reaction from certain areas of the industry has been as cold as expected: 'They are just musicians and don't understand the business. & # 39; is the essential. To which I would say: The problem that we are drawing attention to is precisely that musicians have been excluded from the conversation! We always come last when it comes to payment and advice – even if our job is what the streaming business is based on. "

The struggle for survival with music is of course nothing new. The jazz genius Thelonious Monk had a benefactor in Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. But just because we're failed musicians in the past doesn't mean we can't and shouldn't do better.

Am I okay I'm still not sure, but listening to music seems to help.