MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A record number of Tennesseans filed for unemployment the past week, but that likely does not show the full scope of people impacted financially by coronavirus.
Music has a well-known, rich local history. That same industry has taken a beating since Mayor Jim Strickland declared a civil emergency and ordered all non-essential businesses to close.
Local musicians are now trying to come together to find ways to make ends meet while they can’t play local live shows.
“Around this time of year is when festivals start, and people really start coming out after winter,” said Josh Stevens, a member of local band Glorious Abhor. “This is primetime for music and life in general.”
Stevens said his band just finished recording a new album in recent weeks, which is now delayed, and they’ve had to cancel many shows so far.
He said he doesn’t know how long the coronavirus outbreak could last, but it’s serious, and it makes him worried about the non-so-distant future.
“To be more cautious and to be responsible, I am not leaving the house,” Stevens said. “I definitely don’t want it to be an issue where I get it and pass it on to other people.”
He said he has some side jobs, but most of those require interaction with people. He said he’s at a loss of how to make enough income during the recommended social distancing.
“At the time, right now, I’m still trying to figure something out,” Stevens said.
Stevens said social media has boosted morale of many people in the music industry because they can perform and interact with fans in a different way.
So many local musicians went to social media to get their art out, that Memphis Travel decided to have a full virtual music festival.
Get Live! Memphis: Virtual Music Festival is an online music festival in an effort to support the local music scene during this time. Festival organizers ask listeners to donate to Music Export Memphis‘ COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.
Local producer IMAKEMADBEATS is participating in one day of the virtual concert. He said this is a chance for musicians to showcase things they’ve never done before, as they’re all performing live from inside their homes with all the equipment they own,
“The desired outcome being donations given to help fund musicians throughout the city, in a city where music is historically its most important gift to the world,” IMAKEMADBEATS said. “We just want to do some live shows from our house and make the most of it.”
He owns a record label, Unapologetic, which had to postpone what is likely its biggest event in its history.
IMAKEMADBEATS also works as an engineer with multiple artists in the studio, and he’s losing out on that income while people are asked to stay home.
“Everybody is at home, quarantined, so we obviously can’t work how we were working before,” he said. “A lot of things have changed in the immediate sense.”
He said many local people in the music industry are unsure of their next steps and of what is to come. He said the question of whether to keep creating music or not during the pandemic is on the minds of many musicians.
“The key thing we’ve been doing is trying to adapt,” IMAKEMADBEATS said. “We’re all trying to figure out ways to be valuable in this situation to keep things going.”
And he’s hoping the community can do just that for the music scene — keep them going.
“Visitors and people who live here have enjoyed the beautiful music this place provides for decades,” IMAKEMADBEATS said. “And now isn’t the time to forget how important that is for this community.”