By Amber Wiles
At the beginning of the year when sold-out concerts were the norm, it was impossible to predict that a year on attending a music concert would seem like a distant memory. The music industry and the arts in general have felt a large impacts across the board this year due to COVID-19, and as we head into 2021 it’s hard to know what the New Year will bring. The sudden changes brought on by the Coronavirus early in the year meant artists had to change their plans and adjust to a new world without face-to-face concerts and instead, improvise with live-streamed concerts and zoom festivals. These changes created major shifts within the industry for both artists and fans alike, some more predictable than others, but nevertheless, a shift from the ordinary. This year in music has been unlike any seen before.
In August almost 6 months into COVID restrictions, Singer Sam Fender hosted the World’s first socially distanced concert. A crowd of around 2,500 fans each watched the singer perform from the comfort of their own socially distanced platform with up to 5 friends. The event was the first of its kind, and unfortunately as of December, the last of its kind. Everyone has had to adapt to a changing world, yet, it’s difficult not to long for crowded concerts, buzzing energy and crowds singing their heart out to our favourite songs. Whilst the social distanced concert seems like the best option for the current situation, unprofitability means that where are stuck with zoom concerts, for now.
This year has also led to the rise of the virtual audience. From concerts to music awards, if you wanted to see your favourite artist, most likely it was going to be through a live stream in your bedroom. Large concerts such as One World: Together at Home, which was essentially online Band-Aid, saw eight hours of the world’s biggest artist raising money for coronavirus relief funds. The Rolling Stones sang over video chat, yes, that actually happened. These kinds of online events, whilst an adjustment from the norm, was just one example of how music became a crux that helped us stay connected through lockdown. – with artists using their talent to raise money for those who desperately need it. You could say that music became more than just music, it became an escape.
We saw this at the beginning of lockdown when videos surfaced across the internet of people singing and playing instruments on their balconies across Europe. Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’ became a symbol within the UK that eventually we’d be able to see our families and friends soon. Taylor Swift’s surprise album drop saw fans across the world imagining themselves moving to the Lake District and becoming a writer (a reference to her song ‘The Lakes’). And it also saw John Lennon’s Imagine become a meme after some celebrities thought releasing a video of themselves singing the song from their multimillion-pound houses would make us feel better. I can’t say the video did, but the memes definitely did. Music became something to cling to when everything else was up in the air, and for others, it meant viral Tik Tok fame.
Tik Tok has seen the music charts alter and change unlike anything before during 2020. Viral dance trends to Jason Derulo’s ‘Savage Love’ and The Weekend’s ‘Blinding Lights’ dominated Tik Tok at the beginning of the year and shortly after, hit number one in the UK charts. It was difficult not to start dancing when the songs came on. The year also saw smaller artists move into the charts overnight when Tik Tok videos featuring their songs went viral. Viral dance songs and internet sensations were not the only significant musical moments of Tik Tok over the year. As protests around the world emerged after the death of George Floyd, songs such as Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ were used to show the harsh realities of racism across the world. Tik Tok became the platform for making people aware of global issues, and music became a way to engage and connect people to these realities. Yet, the darker side of the music industry also showed its true colours once again when its blatant erasure of Black artists became increasingly apparent. When The Weekend’s ‘Blinding Lights’ album failed to be nominated for any Grammys, despite being one of the most played albums in the world, and the titular song being Spotify’s most played song of the year, the biased nature of the Grammy’s became increasingly clear one again. Black artists, particularly female Black artists, are continually pushed aside by the industry despite commercial and critical success. The Weekend’s failure to be nominated this year, alongside the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, has meant that 2020 has been an eye-opener to the music industries failures. Despite these issues being in the public eye for decades, it seems 2020 was the year people decided to truly pay attention. Let’s just hope that real changes can be made sooner rather than later.
Music has meant different things to different people this year. For some it’s been an escape from the harsh realities of 2020, for others, it’s been a chance to create a Ratatouille Musical. One thing apparent throughout it all, however, is that the music industry has changed. We all hope that as we enter 2021 we can experience the joy of attending a concert but it still unknown when this will be possible. We can also hope that real systemic changes can be made to the music industry. 2021 is a new year, let’s just wait and see what it brings to the music industry.