At the beginning of the pandemic (when we still thought it had a clear beginning and a clear end??) we asked about the impact of the pandemic on creatives (you can read about it here).
By now we all know that 2020 was devastating for the creative industry, from movies and cinemas, to actors and actresses at the beginning of their careers, from dancers, concert houses and venues, musicians and bands, theater groups and booking agents and our beloved venues.
E&M wanted to check in with some musicians how they are doing, how the year has been for them – and most importantly – what we can do to help?
E&M: Hi! Who are you and what do you do?
Joey Ryan: Hey, my name is Joey Ryan, and I am a musician and artist from Ireland that goes under the name ORIAN.
Freddie Dickson: Hi! I’m Freddie Dickson a singer and a songwriter from London.
Violetta Zironi: Ciao!! I am Violetta Zironi, I’m 25, Italian, and I’m a singer songwriter and actress. I’ve lived in Berlin for three years now and I work between here, Italy and the UK.
E&M: Thanks for answering our questions and giving us some insight! Obviously we want to know, as we all had plans for 2020 – what were yours’?
Freddie Dickson: We did indeed! Well i had just released my second album Blood Street at the end of 2019 and was planning on touring this album throughout 2020.
Violetta Zironi: I had my first headline tour of Europe in February, which I managed to do and only got the last two gigs cancelled. I had a lot of festival gigs booked for the summer, around Europe. I had my first big movie come out and I was going to be in Rome to promote it properly, but we could only do it online. I got a little bit luckier I think than other colleagues of mine, since I managed to do most of my tour and I was mostly going to take 2020 to write and plan my new record and next moves, but still it has been rough financially due to all the festivals cancelled.
Joey Ryan: Like a lot of musicians that I know, we had plans to do a lot of touring in 2020, as we had spent 2019 doing a lot of writing and behind the scenes work, preparing for our 2020 release schedule, which we were to support with performances in Poland, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland. Thankfully, our German tour was in February 2020, so we managed to play all those shows before Covid really took off. We did manage to stick to our release schedule which I am super happy about, but releases without shows and tours feel a little bit empty sometimes.
E&M: Oh wow, that sounds really tough. It was empty for us listeners, too! Can we ask – when was the last time you’ve performed?
Joey Ryan: My last show was in Frankfurt am Main, Germany on the 23.02.2020. It was around two weeks later that everything was locked down for the first time, so I was lucky.
Violetta Zironi: I performed a live stream gig in Italy early December. In a theater, with no audience. The last time I performed before that was in February.
Freddie Dickson: I managed one gig the whole year! It was a socially distanced concert in a courtyard in 36 degree heat. It was a real sweatfest but fun. I even messed up a song I’ve been playing for 10 years and it’s only got three chords!
I guess the most prevalent fear I have right now is financial and worrying about how I will be able to continue to fund my music going forward if things don’t improve.
E&M: Right, let’s get real. Despite the practice – what did you miss the most in the past months of lockdown(s) and social distancing?
Freddie Dickson: Workwise I’m really starting to miss not just playing gigs but also going to them. I also obviously miss the pub.
Violetta Zironi: I missed being able to freely collaborate with people. Collaboration is one of my most important resources and it has been very difficult to do it in person. The only option has been to do it remotely.
Joey Ryan: I mean, the biggest thing I miss is performing live, and seeing my friends perform live. It really feels like the entire independent music industry has been really just brought to its knees due to the lack of shows, and for me shows were not just another way of expressing my music and connecting with people, they were also a big chunk of my income. I am also a little bit sceptical that 2021 will see the return of shows on pre covid levels, as I just don’t see it right now. But, I hope I am wrong on that. I also miss going to bars with groups of friends. The atmosphere that a bar creates with the right company and soundtrack is something I will never take for granted again.
signing up to things like patreon or bandcamp is helpful. As well as being willing to pay for online gigs. And keep asking for music and tell us you are enjoying it to make us feel that what we do is appreciated.
E&M: If we allow ourselves to dream on, what are your hopes for 2021?
Joey Ryan: I hope that the world gets a chance to heal from this virus, and that we can all go back to living our lives without the weight of this virus hanging over us. I hope to see my family, as I haven’t seen them in over a year now, and I hope to be able to travel with ease again. Creatively, I want 2021 to be the year where I write more than I did last year, and to release more music than in 2020. A few shows would be nice too.
Freddie Dickson: Well I’m releasing a new EP in the spring and I’m hoping i will get to play some shows towards the end of the year but let’s see.
Violetta Zironi: I hope that we can all go back to a somewhat normal reality. I also hope though that I can bring with me the lessons I leant during this tough year. For example, when you have less resources, I found myself being more proactive, finding solutions in places I wouldn’t have noticed. I hope that this 2020 helped me grow up.
E&M: All three of you hope in a very careful fashion, it’s humbling. What are your fears?
Violetta Zironi: I am afraid that the life I was used to before 2020 won’t come back the same way in 2021, for a long time. But my biggest fear is that when the old lifestyle finally comes back, I won’t be used to it anymore, and it might unsettle me. I’m afraid that I forgot how to do my job. That I might feel overwhelmed by the intensity of the world after being still for so long.
Joey Ryan: I guess the most prevalent fear I have right now is financial and worrying about how I will be able to continue to fund my music going forward if things don’t improve. That is a big concern to be honest, and while it might not be a very cool thing to say, it is a massive issue for many independent artists. Creating records and songs takes a lot of time and money, and sometimes it is hard to see where that is going to come from. It stresses me out a lot, as it is an unsustainable model in a way; where one invests a few grand into releasing a song, only to not even be able to make back half of that. I guess the lack of touring enterprise this year has really blown the lid off how little money songwriters and artists make from their craft. I hope this is the start of a wave of change.
Freddie Dickson: Wow how much time do you have?! I guess a big fear of mine is the arts being put in so much danger from lockdown that a lot of underground places, which are so important in our culture particularly in music, will not have the financial capacity to remain open.
E&M: Speaking about finances and support – What can fans do? Should we sign petitions? Should we stop using Spotify and make a Bandcamp account?
Freddie Dickson: Bandcamp all the way! I get that Spotify is easy and i use it myself but i literally don’t even bother checking my streaming income from it. If you like a record and can afford to buy it this can make all the difference for the artists particularly in these trying times.
Joey Ryan: Buying merch, music and tickets directly from artists sites is the way to go towards supporting your favourite artists, and Bandcamp too is a much more artist friendly way of consuming peoples music. But I think it is a very complicated matter, as the general public are so used to being able to search for any song they want, and listen to it within seconds, all for 9.99 EUR a month. It’s also a question of consumer behaviour, as the concept of streaming services from the consumer side is incredible. So I don’t think the solution is getting rid of the big streaming sites; but more so raising awareness so that customers know that their money is not going to the artists they are listening to, and calling Spotify out for just how bad their royalty rates are. I think this is starting to happen. A lot of big writers and artists are more publicly talking about this now, and that’s what we need if we are to achieve any fair increase in payments for songwriters.
Violetta Zironi: I guess fans have been very supportive during the whole time. Obviously spotify is great, but it has made people adapt to having access to music almost for free. So yes, signing up to things like patreon or bandcamp is helpful. As well as being willing to pay for online gigs. And keep asking for music and tell us you are enjoying it to make us feel that what we do is appreciated.
E&M: Thank you so much for your time, sharing your hopes and dreams and laying them out for us.
Many thanks to: Joey Ryan (find him on facebook, instagram or twitter), to Freddie Dickson (find him on facebook, instagram or twitter) and Violetta Zironi (find her on facebook, instagram or twitter!)
Cover Photo: by illustrator Ines Ehinger (@cloudsandillustrations)