COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives, and as we look at moving forward, one of the big questions is how touring musicians at every level have been affected. From DIY to major tours with full road crews, there isn’t any musician who relies on live performances to make a living that hasn’t suffered in recent months. While some artists have been holding virtual concerts, there’s no comparison to the amount of revenue they can generate from tours with merch sales and higher attendance. Also, with the shuttering of clubs and venues musicians aren’t receiving guarantees and are being forced to reschedule, postpone, or altogether cancel entire tours.
DIY tours have been the de-facto method for many underground musicians, and these typically rely on help from close-knit communities in networks throughout cities across the country. Jumping in the van and playing a house-show then crashing on the couch for the night only to do it all over again has been an exciting way for underground artists to make a name for themselves. Still, since the social distancing guideline have been implemented, these adventurous expeditions are grinding to a halt and may be permanently changed.
Larger musicians who rely on tour managers as well as road crews to pull off long stints on the road with tons of logistical considerations haven’t been spared either. Since early March, numerous large tours have been canceled, and with no clear path forward, the fear is that touring could be changed forever. Another consideration for larger tours is how to navigate international travel amid travel restrictions. Typically if a band came to America to tour, they’d connect with their local contact, tour manager, or driver and have a backline of amps, drums, mic stands, and other equipment provided and ready to go; they simply arrived with their instruments, and it all kicked off. But now, with all of these cancellations, international performers are unable to secure guarantees, and months of careful planning is all for naught.
As local communities begin re-opening phases, live converts may become more common, but with capacity restrictions, musicians may see reductions or even no guarantees. Clearly, COVID-19 has changed nearly every aspect of daily life, but the impact it’s having on touring musicians is stark and may leave the industry in many ways permanently scarred. The connection and community that are experienced at live performances are an essential part of many people’s lives, and tours have been the primary way for musicians to grow their fanbase or reach fans across the globe and share a night of connection through their art and COVID-19 may change touring, but it won’t destroy it.