As lockdown measures are easing and a new equilibrium begins to form, a new narrative of reality unfolds around us. Creating a new shape of life, coloured by the pandemic. It is paramount now for us to take a moment of reflection and consider some of the ways the weird time when all we did was wear pyjamas and have zoom calls, has reshaped music. So, to summarise (for those who have been living under a rock or something), we're amidst a global pandemic called Covid-19, a nasty new sibling to the other coronavirus offspring which has meant we have been ushered indoors to protect public health.
This has been history in the making, mostly in a tragic and heartbreaking context. Class struggles have been laid bare with nowhere to hide under the declining economy, lack of resources throughout the NHS and growing poverty. Death has been a present figure in all our daily lives not only as a nation but as a planet. Bringing everyone's conception of space and time to a new ether. Staring into the abyss is inevitable for many during a pandemic, however, throughout the misery and questioning of what it means to live, many artists have found ways to push themselves both creatively and in their humanity. Musicians have not failed to unite with their fans and other creators to bring innovation, kindness and let's face it, absolute bangers to the masses to keep spirits up.
The birth of the internet and its younger sibling, social media has helped to democratise the music industry. It has redefined our relationship with music. Creators can instantly connect with fans or other creators. 'Corporate' is a word famously denounced by musicians, especially rockstars from the 70s and 80s as it's 'selling out'. Well, lockdown could be the perfect example of artists 'selling in'. The lesser constraints have allowed a freer exploration of themselves through their music as well as the incorporation of their fans into the way they interact with music.
PC music formerly named after A.G. Cook's record label and art collective has morphed into a fully-fledged genre with its tentacles extending into many experimental compositions. It's blending seamlessly with pop in Charli XCX’s style, has brought a niche to the mainstream, selling the idea of exclusive inclusion, to be part of a desired whole that lives on the outskirts of traditional pop music. Charli XCX released a homemade album inspired by her feelings during lockdown, with many of her friends helping her to curate it. She also released two music videos, one using mostly fan footage of what they have been doing in quarantine as well as a video using a green screen. She waves much of the album's credit in her fans direction saying "your [their] ideas & fingerprints are all over this album as much as mine [hers]" in an Instagram post. She describes using the quake of emotions caused by the chaos going on in the world to energise and inspire her music. In doing so, she has allowed her fans to experience her humanity alongside theirs, united by one unprecedented moment in time.
A shared heartbreak has been the pausing of live music events, alas. Luckily, Boiler room a much loved online music broadcasting platform based in London invited artists to perform in a series called 'streaming from isolation'. Rather than their usual recordings of artists with the vibrancy of their excited fans swaying and gun fingering behind them. They invited each of them to perform in private spaces across the globe many of which are almost ethereal in design. These intimate contexts provide a very humble, grounded experience of the artist. Despite the audience not being close to them as at a live event, it feels like they can get closer to them in their personhood as all feels laid bare. Especially as it becomes cross-cultural, no longer are certain people in certain countries missing out on the live event and watching it back knowing they were not there, but the egalitarian nature of the streams, provided an even keel for all to simply enjoy the music. The series was a "fundraiser for The Global FoodBanking Network - whose work providing emergency support to people locked in poverty is crucial at this time".
Another vein in the body of goodwill is The independent record label R&S's NHS: In Order to Care (an independent record label founded in Belgium) compilation. As mentioned before, the NHS has been greatly under-resourced, with many members of the healthcare sector not being provided with adequate PPE. The charity compilations' objective was that "all money raised will directly supply much needed PPE to NHS workers", directly quoted on their website. Many [label regulars, affiliates and newcomers] either created new bits or delved deep into their archive of old material to contribute and support the cause. In this time of need, there has been an eruption of compassion from artists and musicphiles alike.
This period has been a shooting star for smaller producers and those starting out. For many, that have been producing music as a hobby for a long time alongside their daily life stresses and full-time jobs, this time has gifted them the opportunity to focus solely
on experimenting to find their niche and hone their style. It has also given people more time to explore and look for more music, meaning these under the radar powerhouses are finally receiving recognition and support of their craft. To commit yourself to music can be a feat in an increasingly difficult economy, and so the lack of pressure granted by lockdown has given many the licence to put themselves out into the orb to see how they fit within the wider jigsaw puzzle of musical composition.
If during this time, you've been nothing more than the human equivalent of a plushie - that the sweet tunes and those producing them, have inspired you. Away from the ever- present class politics, the nakedness of this crisis has bestowed a tenderness to people. Anyone can try to make music, it's not an elitist club. Lockdown has reminded us of this, given us new ways to create and connect, resulting in remarkable music and experiences. Most importantly it has given us a time to pause and shed new light on where the power of creation and innovation comes from, within ourselves.
Written by Ella Boon