Many innovative responses have been evident to survive the impact of the pandemic, sustaining jobs and income for some. What is lost and what is gained? 新肺炎刺激了不同的生存手法,不乏對音樂創作的傳承。危機是渡過了,接著呢?

**feature image: courtesy of Hidden Space (Facebook photo)

 

The on-going COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill. Music industries from around the world suffered without live events with the subsequent lockdowns and bans on social gathering imposed by the respective governments in each region; world tours were postponed, shows were cancelled, and tickets were refunded. In response to the total ban on live music and social gatherings, artists from around the world turned to digital and online means for the distribution and performance of their music. Of course, live streaming existed before COVID-19; live streams were “never meant to replace live shows, but to offer another string of revenue by enlarging fan engagement and online reach (Bienvenu, 2).” It may be beneficial to look at live-streaming as a separate medium than live performance, as it is “not really a concert, and it is not really a recording either (Thomson and Ng, 3).”

However, the fact of the matter is that both the distribution and consumption of music through online means garnered heavy attention and popularity within Hong Kong and worldwide.

Hong Kong’s COVID Response

The pandemic was in full force in Hong Kong during March 2020, prompting the Government to put a ban on public gatherings of more than four people in late March of 2020, as well as the subsequent temporary closure of bars, pubs, and live event spaces in April of the same year. Hong Kong musicians were not able to host or perform live at venues and event spaces; event venue crew such as sound engineers, lighting crew, and logistical support are now left without gigs and jobs. Furthermore, governmental programs to alleviate the effect of COVID on workers did not recognise members of the gig economy as salaried workers, therefore, these people did not receive any stimulus checks or emergency funds (Chris B).

To normalise the situation, promoters and musicians began to turn to digital platforms such as Facebook and YouTube for livestream of home-concerts. Worldwide, over 8000 live stream events were scheduled by March of 2020 (Frankenberg). This was evident in Hong Kong as well, with numerous livestreaming concerts and festivals being held since then.

Hong Kong’s Independent Musicians and Digital Media

Increasing importance was placed on presence on digital media, with virtual events and festivals being held to bring live music back. Tone Online Music Festival was held twice during the pandemic period, with the second edition featuring local acts such as Instinct of Sight, Smoke in Half Note, SilHungMo, and Maniac. Packages featuring various merchandise such as playing cards, beer, and even a hand-delivered meal to your doorstep prepared by the organisers were offered in addition to virtual tickets. Tone Online Music Festival 2 successfully raised $400,000 Hong Kong dollars for both artists and crew, providing income to those whose jobs and pay were suspended due to the pandemic (TickCats).

Furthermore, programs such as Ear Up Gig Online aimed to “deliver an extensive online experience through music prowess and fashion to a wider audience (Ear Up).” As online performances garner attention and hype, more and more artists will try their luck with an online show. This over-saturates supply and force artists to innovate and create new ideas, elevating themselves to the next level. This further accelerates the change in production and distribution methods which independent musicians utilise.

 

CITATION

B., Chris. Personal interview. 23 Jan 2021.

Bienvenu, Grégoire. Is Livestreaming the Post-Covid-19 Future for Live Music?, May 2020, www.researchgate.net/publication/342360942_Is_livestreaming_the_post-Covid- 19_future_for_live_music.

Frankenberg, Eric. “Livestream Data Shows Surging Online Activity While Live Venues Remain Closed.” Billboard, 20 Apr. 2020, www.billboard.com/index.php/articles/business/chart-beat/9360625/livestream-data- surging-online-activity-venues-closed-coronavirus.

Thomson, Scott, and Karen Ng. “COVID-19 and the Creative Music Ecology.” Critical Studies in Improvisation / Études Critiques En Improvisation, vol. 14, no. 1, 2021, doi:10.21083/csieci.v14i1.6424.

TickCats. “Tone Online Music Festival 第二擊.” TickCats, 2020, tickcats.co/ticket/tone2/.