The return to live music - the return to normal life even - has been hard. At home we were having discussions with ourselves:
“Is it safe to go?”
“What mitigating steps would we be taking to make it safe?”
For some, it can be anxiety-inducing.
On the other side of that ordeal, though, are the scenes we love. Scenes filled with the music, people, and energy that thrills us. Scenes that mean so much to us, which have brought us together, creating memories to last a lifetime.
A common element among this scene is an important demographic. Without this demographic, the same levels of energy, vibrancy and impact would simply not exist: young people. Without this crucial crowd - the stars of the show - the scenes we love would diminish, the economy would be impacted, and the emotional and social aspects of live music just wouldn’t be the same.
We sat with friends of Majoris Music, artists & young people, to get first-hand experiences of the loss of live music, the return afterwards and the new normal encapsulating that world.
Patryk D was once an active member of the electronic music scene. He told us while shielding for 18 months, he missed “going out and losing yourself, having that experience so different from your day to day”. Locked down, each day blended into the next and many of us had to adopt coping mechanisms to satiate the desire for live music. For Patryk, “make-do parties” with his flatmates were one such mechanism. Yet, the hope to “emulate the live experience ... was never the same and eventually got a bit stale”.
With someone so devoted to live music, it reached the point where even the best Spotify listening sessions at home needed some real elevation. Patryk, like many others, felt absent from the scene - and eventually, actively withdrew from it.
During the pandemic, the space between ‘making do with flat parties’ and the ideal state of enjoying live shows remained more than socially distanced. It felt like everyone’s first show back was one of very little normality; a mix of hesitation around Covid safety and the excitement of seeing an artist that we fell in love with - most likely over lockdown - live. Seating was mandatory, but the crowd had an uncontainable urge to stand up and enjoy. This rebellion was so contagious that the artists couldn’t help but cherish the energy and become one with the crowd.
This was the first time a lockdown-fatigued crowd experienced the new age of post-Covid live music. It was an emphatic return cemented in our memories - filled with the infectious atmosphere the crowd produced.
While the personal impact of missing live music hit hard, it hit harder on a wider industry level. According to research conducted by UK Music, one in three jobs were lost in the music sector - impacting around 70,000 people. Further research by Live indicates there was a 75% drop in revenue for grassroots venues. It’s more important than ever to encourage and embrace young people contributing to this economy, helping it thrive and feeling part of something bigger than themselves and their Spotify listening sessions.
In the context of grim figures and a national sentiment of hesitation, it remains positive to see many young people coming through and bucking the trend with an overwhelming support for live music. In conversation with another young person, Oli B said that he “didn’t think twice in booking gigs for smaller venues and newer artists”, showing awareness that the scene “needs our support”. The story on our side was the same; we had caught the bug again, heading to four live shows in a week.
Both of these accounts from Oli and Patryk are reflective of most conversations we’ve had with young people, both fellow audience members and artists themselves. There’s an itch to scratch for many young people in returning to live music, and there is cognizance that their return is crucial to keeping the music they love performing on the stages they love.
It’s important to recognise though, that this isn’t the same for everyone. There are young people out there that, whether from caution or fear, are still hesitant to return. To help those on the fence, we asked some artists we love to share some motivations and tips for feeling like you can get back into the scene in a safe way.
Photo Credit: Ellie Slorick @eslorick
Nix Northwest is a London based rapper and producer who highlighted the importance of remembering what it’s like, being there “in the flesh” and how these experiences are simply incomparable to listening at home. “Whilst you’re there in the crowd,” Nix says, “you become completely captured and often very inspired by what you see.” To those in two minds, Nix say simply this: “I’d encourage anyone to…just go for it”.
Similarly, Jed Swanscott, a drummer for explosive new two-piece, False Eyed Dolls, and long running neo-jazz act Jack Howard, told us that, “everyone is in the same boat… and nervous about it” but that young people specifically should feel empowered to return and share in the things that we have all missed for so long. “Unless it’s clearly dangerous”, says Jed, “take a leaf out of my book, just do it!”.
It’s not just the crowd that gains from everyone getting back out there in person. There's a symbiotic relationship between the artist and the audience that has a huge impact on artists' work. “It’s make or break for my music,” explains Nix. Live music, and the people that make up those crowds, help artists in more ways than just providing income. It helps them reach people on a deeply personal level, test new ways of performing their music, and explore their artistic capabilities.
Jed explains how testing out a new song live, and feeding off the crowd’s reaction, has “a huge impact on how the song is then recorded”. Those tunes that we all spent so long listening to over lockdown, have undoubtedly been influenced by the crowds that saw them early on.
Whilst Nix, deep in album mode, asserted that although he’s confident with his vision for his music and how it should sound, “nothing compares to the feeling of standing on a stage and having the crowd cheer and shout your lyrics back at you. It’s a spiritual experience.”
The people that sit, stand and sing at live shows aren’t just indulging in music they like, they are creating a profound and emotional bond with the artist that has clear and lasting impacts for both. For an artist, there’s few things better than seeing a room packed full of people - there’s an unmistakable feeling as you step onto stage, knowing there are people waiting to hear your craft. Nix told us that returning to this, at his first London show back, was “mad!.. but I’m so grateful”, and Jed recalled that he was suspended “in disbelief...even in the green room” before making his live return.
As both artists say: “without the audience, there is no show”.
Artists and audiences are now happier than ever to commune for the music. Having not seen anyone for so long, the post-gig ‘come say hi’ is cherished more than ever. Jed shared his realisation that these interactions are “not to be taken for granted”. As artists, both Jed and Nix remind themselves that attending live shows is a “big part of people’s lives” and that audiences are “paying for you”. Whilst pre-Covid this was obviously genuinely appreciated, having felt the void of the absence of a crowd of young people, there’s even more gratitude now.
Live music plays a huge part in young people’s social lives, and the bonds we make were sorely missed over lockdown. “Everyone is on the same level, in the same room, enjoying the same thing at the same time,” is how Jed describes the community built by the crowd and artists at live music events.
Isn’t it beautiful to see strangers from all aspects of life congregate under one roof, rallied by a single cause: to enjoy music? And this happens automatically, as soon as (or even before) the first song plays. This creation of a community through live music allows young people especially to feel part of something bigger, sharing interests and ultimately sharing enjoyment with others around them. This is particularly pertinent given that we’ve been stripped of the ability to do this for so long. From the people putting on the shows and the people enjoying them in the audience, it’s clear live music, and the subsequent lack of, is a fundamental and impactful part of their lives.
The changing fabric of this symbiotic relationship demonstrates the real significance between the stars of the show and the shows themselves. As Jed beautifully articulated, “sometimes the audience underestimate how important they actually are”. And in that, we couldn’t agree more.
So wherever these moments might be for you, be it the open mic night in your local pub, the basement below a restaurant or the O2 Arena, have a serious think about buying that ticket, supporting what you love, and no longer ‘making do’, as Patryk did. The implications are massive, and you're pretty much guaranteed to have a good time.
Author: Majoris Music
Majoris Music is a platform helping you define that wonderful experience: music.
The passion project of two friends who shared a guiding love for great music, Majoris Music has become an all-encompassing platform that writes about, features and shares music which is nothing but special. With a focus on exploring, building and connecting up and coming artists and their work, MM is your partner in unlocking the hidden specialities across the wonderful world of sound.
Commission Mission 2 was created by Young Guns Network to Commission 4 new freelance writers to create articles to inspire, inform and entertain young people in the music industry on the topic of The Return to Live Music After Covid 19.
The commission was funded by the Youth Music Innovation Fund.