TThe initial impact of Covid-19 on the music industry was unexpected. Surely, with everyone confined to their homes, streaming characters would go through the roof, not least because it quickly became apparent that singing an opera on your little Italian balcony is only so fun for so long. Yet in April, a good six weeks after global lockdown orders began, it was reported that Spotify streams for the world’s biggest hits were actually down 11%.
You see, it’s not just the concert halls that have been closed, it’s the bars and venues that normally play recorded music; Plus, there was a lack of bored commuters standing on trains listening to a playlist called My Boss Is a Jerk.
Music was one of many areas of employment coming under scrutiny in 2020, with Spotify singled out for offering its suppliers – and I’m talking musicians rather than record companies – an extremely rum chord. An unlikely champion of the artist arrived in Tom Gray, a member of the gritty Britpop blues dudes Gomez, and his #BrokenRecord campaign, which seemed to take into account the unfair financial model of streaming.
The fact that the vast majority of artists do all music online has been a problem since Metallica’s Lars Ulrich lost his shit to Napster in 2000, but it got worse in a year when musicians’ main source of income , live music, was devastated. Add that to PRS’s lost revenue – the money artists make playing in licensed venues such as pubs, restaurants, and shops – and most musicians have found themselves well and truly screwed by 2020. .
The collapse of the live music industry affected not only the performers, but also the thousands of people who work alongside them, from road crews and sound engineers to security guards and transport companies. While big names such as Dua Lipa may have broken live streaming records online with their lavish Studio 2054 show recording over 5 million views – the equivalent of 20 Glastonburys simultaneously – for smaller artists, arrange a decent online gig was harder than it was worth.
But the artists made sure that all was not lost. Laura Marling offered solace by releasing her gorgeous song for our daughter months earlier to give us something to swoon over in dark April, while Charli XCX used lockdown to create How I’m Feeling Now. Both albums were nominated for Mercury. Solace could also be found in a glittery disco revival, with Kylie, Jessie Ware, Dua Lipa and Róisín Murphy serving up a much-needed dancefloor kitchen escape – and Sophie Ellis-Bextor even broadcast family karaoke sessions of her own, complete with hyperactive children frolicking next to the Aga.
But one of the freelance artist’s most notable saviors in 2020 was Bandcamp, which allowed artists to receive the full revenue from any music sold on its site through its now monthly Bandcamp Fridays. And despite the fact that physical music stores in the UK were closed from March to June and then again in November, vinyl sales continued to rise, with a whopping 2.7 million records sold on the format. UK. Which explains all those big square packages that you must have taken for your neighbor this summer …