Any COVID-19 survival strategy for music industry?

FIRSTLY, the numbers and information from the Ministry of Health are suggesting that this menace called COVID-19 is yet to relent. Countries that have managed to bring the scourge to manageable levels do not have a vaccine or cure – they have the same things we have. They have just religiously used masks, practiced social distancing, followed prescribed hygiene regulations and avoided public events. It seems simple enough. Each one of us should ask ourselves if we are doing these things because this can only be won if we all follow the rules.
In terms of the arts, and music in particular, COVID-19 has been an ultimate terror. That is because not a single country has found a way to effectively hold music concerts during the COVID period. Granted there are online live performances, but these do not have the same presence and magnitude as say the FAZ Super League, Spanish La Liga, the English Premier league, or the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The sporting world has managed to come back to near normal levels with the resumption and successful completion of these major events and others sports not mentioned here have also made a comeback. Can the music industry do the same?
The music industry is an individualist or per act effort that although subject to competition, is not necessarily driven by the pursuit of a prize such as a cup, a title or a belt. In their day-to-day operations, musicians strive to build a lucrative per act fan base and do not have to all be in the charts to make a living. In fact, charts are not connected to the “success” of musicians – especially the dubious charts we have in Zambia which cannot be audited. Translating these per act brands into a schedule like weekend matches where fans can follow was not there pre COVID-19 and therefore cannot be expected during COVID-19. However, when music is subjected to a scheduled competition like a talent contest, some schedule can be contemplated.
Infusing competition into the music industry creates a schedule like what has happened to South African Idols which is in its 16th season. How they will navigate around COVID-19 is not clear yet as the first two episodes were filmed before there was a lockdown in South Africa as Pindula News reports.
Mzansi Magic publicist Philly Kubheka released the official statement about Idols and said: “The first two episodes were shot before the national lockdown. There were changes with regards to theatre week. However, it will be unveiled on the show as it forms part of the interesting twists added to the competition.”
It is still not clear how the production will show live studio audiences in accordance with the WHO social distancing guidelines.
One of the judges Randall Abrahams expressed his excitement about this year’s Idols when he said: “Not only do we have a host of fresh, exciting talent, choosing a winner will be as challenging for the public as it was for the judges to make decisions during theatre week.”
So, the lesson is that we subject music to a formal competition, then we can have a stream of at least one sustainable line in the music industry. However, this is a narrow line that does not touch the broad base of the already practicing musicians. The recently announced fund for the arts by President Edgar Lungu is a very welcome initiative.
As a music industry, we can also hold a discussion virtually on what we ourselves can do during this challenge of our generation. Most industries are holding these virtual discussions where industry participants are coming up with practical ways of existence.
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