• Jimmy The Dog

Roll up, Roll up!! Wear your mask and get yer guitars here!

The COVID pandemic has been a disaster for for the live music industry, I think we can all agree. And never more than today has live music been needed, albeit socially distanced. But it's not all doom and gloom. Yes, the internet has provided some solace in these trying times in that live Facebook gigs and the like have kept fans connected with their favourite acts, but like other normally crowd-orientated events like football, it just ain't the same. The atmosphere is missing. And many music business professionals are facing real financial desperation.


However, furlough and lay-offs, although not particularly positive for most recipients, unusually resulted in an astronomical rise in sales of guitars and other musical equipment during the second quarter of this year where previously even online stores were having a hard time surviving. Gear4Music online store, for example, had seen a rise in sales of over 68%, resulting in the best sales years they've ever seen!


Why?


It appears that people suddenly faced with having to stay at home were looking to get something to do other than watch the ever depressing news on their wide screen. People who had learned a musical instrument once upon a time but had never kept it up now had time on their hands. People who always regretted not living their musical dream now had that opportunity. Others may have thought that buying and playing a guitar or a keyboard might be a cool thing to do.






Online music lessons suddenly became oversubscribed (I don't teach, but maybe I should, in retrospect). I wonder how many new Eddie Van Halens (RIP Eddie) this pandemic will produce?


Yes, I've done a couple of solo Facebook Live gigs, early on in the pandemic, free of charge - hey, if it's good enough for Richard Thompson it's good enough for me - but I've tended to focus on composing and producing music for Film & TV and I'm starting to get some real success there. Like many who were furloughed, had I had my dayjob to go to, I'd never have spent my working day (and nights) producing, learning and practicing. It became my job and I was happy - I still am, actually.


What I'm seeing now, as people are gradually going back to work, is that sites like Ebay and Gumtree are FULL of guitars and other musical instruments for sale. I live in Chiswick, a small part of west London. Within a one-mile of where I live, Gumtree today has five pages of guitars for sale, many of them new this year. Maybe people need the money. Or more likely, they've half-heartedly tried to play and found out that playing a musical instrument to a decent level of competence requires loads of commitment, dedication, practice, persistence, sacrifice, focus, immunity to naysayers - and above all, patience - and other related qualities that many avid telly-watchers don't have in spades. What serious guitarist doesn't remember their fingers of their fret-hand bleeding? Yet, the attained goal, whatever that may be for the individual, is one of such joy! Keeping on getting better means overcoming sloth, disappointment, frustration....and the fruits are there at the end. You would think.


And now for my soapbox. Insult has been added to injury by right-wing politicians devaluing the music industry at this especially difficult time and telling suffering musos and techs to "get a proper job". I have friends - not only musicians, but sound engineers, technicians, tour organisers etc. - who have studied for years to become consummate professionals, some of them also doing low paid work pre-COVID, such as bar work or stacking shelves to keep themselves going when they're not on tour. To have these avenues of income denied them and then for the absolute horrors of human beings (you know who they are) tell them to "get a proper job" is just degrading. Music is life. Musicians and their support staff are the bringers of life. These right-wing politicians say it so easily, inferring that people who devote their lives to their passion, who give their all to doing their best work time and time again, are worth nothing. Certainly, they're worth nothing to them.


There's bound to be one of these right-wingers flogging off a cheap guitar, cheap like their words, in my area on Gumtree. Words come cheap. Committed action and dedication does not and demands respect, don't you think? Probably why they're right-wing politicians in the first place.


Answers on a postcard, please.......

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Jim Ferrie

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Jim Ferrie

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