WORDS: AMY ALBINSON
It’s been a catastrophic month for the music industry as tour cancellations cascade across our newsfeeds. As the worldwide pandemic continues and future plans hover in an uncertain limbo, it’s an increasingly vulnerable time to be an artist, especially an independent one.
With the recent cancellations of the world-famous Glastonbury and the emerging artist havens of Brighton’s The Great Escape Festival and Texas’s SXSW, smaller artists are suffering vast disappointment – and financial loss.
“Going into America and playing music as a British band is a gigantic opportunity” explains Theo Polyzoides, frontman of Dirty Hit-signed, south-Londoners King Nun as he reflects on his band’s SXSW booking this year. “I think the kinds of people and the kind of connections that you might have made in a festival that is that internationally recognised is extremely important… it meant a lot to us”.
The band felt they were setting out with a point to prove as Theo continues, “[Britain has] more to share than the Queen’s face and Harry’s done a runner. It’s kind of like we have this opportunity where we need to prove we have an export, we have culture, we have music, and this virus has left us stranded at a time where we need to be more talkative with other countries than ever. We’re going to have to have to band together as a country, support our local scenes, and go down to The Winchester and wait for this whole thing to blow over”.
“WE’RE BASICALLY BANKRUPT AS A BAND.” – IGUANA DEATH CULT
Whilst maybe not as enthralling as taking to the stage in Texas, the group still gave an electrifyingly charismatic performance on The British Music Embassy’s recent London studio livestream, a closed-door show created to support the British acts unable to play this year’s festival.
Cancelled for the first time in its 34 year history, SXSW is famed for the exposure and opportunities it brought to upcoming artists worldwide; as long as they could get themselves there. You’ve likely seen it – fundraiser shows, the ‘go fund me’ pages, the ‘help send us to SXSW’ articles – playing in the US is not a cheap endeavor for UK and European artists. Commenting on their biggest loss, Tobias Opschoor of Dutch quartet Iguana Death Cult jokes “I was prepared to eat a shit load of tacos, that’s a dream being shattered”. But, in reality, it’s the financial loss that is haunting the group. “The travel ban hopefully makes us able to get some money back from insurance, but, if not, we’re basically bankrupt as a band”.
It’s a worrying thought that one festival cancellation can put a group in such a dire situation, but it’s a wake up call for us all to the vulnerability of these smaller acts. “Maybe someone could develop specialised travel insurance for musicians?” remarks James Potter, singer of Glasgwegian indie-punk darlings Walt Disco who were also set to play. As well as the financial costs of funding their performance, James is all too aware of the tremendous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes. “It was months and months of work that ourselves and our management had put so much effort into” he grimaces, “I can’t help but feel it was time wasted but I’m trying not to dwell. Yes we lost money, and yes we’ve missed out on opportunities, but we’re always going to continue to work hard”. Garnering attention from the decadent theatrics of their live shows, the band’s dazzling New-Romantics sound had made them a hot tip to watch this year and though a cloud of disappointment might shadow them at present, a sense of resolve still permeates.
“THERE ARE NO VIABLE OPTIONS RIGHT NOW.”
With the summer drawing nearer many artists are now rethinking their release plans, due to touring being such a key component. “I’m trying not to think about what it does to put out a record and then not play any shows for potentially months,” frets Lauren Denitzio, frontperson of New Yorker group Worriers. Having already postponed the band’s run with Brian Fallon after only the first show they are feeling the impact heavily. “It’s pretty terrifying,” they continue, “if you’re a touring musician and a tour gets cancelled, there’s usually something else on the horizon. Another tour you could get hired for, some sort of vague backup plan. When literally everyone is on pause, I just have no idea how anyone could plan for that. There are no viable options right now”.
As further cancellations loom on the horizon, we find ourselves trapped within a turbulent time that holds a lot at stake for our favourite artists – and they now rely wholeheartedly on us for support. Whether it’s buying merch, watching livestreams, spreading the word or donating to crowdfunders, we all have a part to play in making sure our music scene is able to continue thriving, when (hopefully) this all blows over. “Let’s call for music fans to support bands and support their local scene more than ever,” chimes King Nun’s Theo, “because that’s what’s going to save us. It’s them lot. Tuning in!”