How the pandemic affected the music industry
With streaming down and the collapse of live shows, it’s been a difficult year for artists – but music has still offered solace
That the vast majority of artists make naff-all from online music has been an issue since Metallica’s Lars Ulrich first lost his shit at Napster in 2000, but it has been compounded in a year where musicians’ main revenue stream, live music, has been devastated. Add that to the loss of PRS earnings – the money artists gain from being played in licensed venues such as pubs, restaurants and shops – and most musicians found themselves well and truly screwed by 2020.
The collapse of the live industry affected not only artists, but the thousands of people who work alongside them, from road crew and sound engineers to security guards and haulage companies. Although huge names such as Dua Lipa might have broken online livestream records with her lavish Studio 2054 show pulling in more than 5m views – the equivalent of 20 simultaneous Glastonburys – for smaller artists, pulling together a decent online gig was more trouble that it was worth.
But artists ensured all was not lost. Laura Marling offered solace by releasing her gorgeous Song for Our Daughter months early to give us something to swoon over in a bleak April, while Charli XCX used lockdown to create How I’m Feeling Now. Both albums were Mercury-nominated. Comfort could also be found in a sequin-tastic disco revival, with Kylie, Jessie Ware, Dua Lipa and Róisín Murphy serving up some much-needed kitchen dancefloor escapism – and Sophie Ellis-Bextor even streamed family-friendly karaoke sessions from hers, complete with hyperactive kids frolicking next to the Aga.
But one of the standout saviours of the independent artist in 2020 was Bandcamp, which let acts receive full revenue for any music sold on its site via its now-monthly Bandcamp Fridays. And despite the fact that physical music stores in the UK were closed from March through to June, and again in November, sales of vinyl continued to rise, with a massive 2.7m records sold on the format in the UK. Which explains all those big square packages you had to take in for your neighbour this summer …