An Asshole’s Guide to Surviving the Musical Apocalypse

I’m not going to insult you by giving this situation a lot of exposition. You’re very much aware what’s going on, regardless of where in the world you’re shitting while you read this or if you’ve spent half a rent check on the paper you’re going to wipe your ass with when you’re done scrolling. We’re going to talk about impact. I’m sure you’re probably already tired of hearing about it but a lot of this cannot be understated so you’re going to get to hear about it again. Just wash your hands and your fucking phone, first.

COVID-19 has kind of turned into the sort of musical event where every idiot with Wi-Fi started off by posting links to songs about virus’ which then turned into nonstop memes, most of which about as funny as the deposition in a case of nursing home abuse, until it started to sink in just how fucking serious the whole thing was. And that’s where, depending on your involvement or lifestyle, things got either incredibly redundant or pants-shittingly frightening. We’ll return to responses a little later, I promise.

The most noticeable impact for fabs has been the postponement or cancellation of several big tours and fests (our own annual Decibel Magazine Tour and the Philadelphia edition of Metal & Beer Fest included). From a health and sanitation perspective, this was prudent because no one wants their event to be ground zero for a pandemic. During the H1N1 hullabaloo in 2009 I played a fest in some shitty warehouse in Chicago where a big portion of the crowd swapped Swine Flu (myself included), which was a fucking nightmare. I can’t imagine that happening at an event people actually would want to attend. As the panic surrounding this virus continues to swell, you’re seeing a lot of other shows and tours getting cancelled as well, either as a precaution or as mandated by whatever local government is paying attention. Outside of the fact that it’s a pretty major bummer watching the spring and summer touring season fall apart, you also have to understand that this puts a pretty massive hurt on not only the bands but the people around them that have spent time and money into putting these things together, some for the better part of a year. These are the two most visible impacts and should be the least difficult to mitigate, right? Tours and festivals can be put on at a later date, right? While that’s true, you have to keep in mind people may not want to hold on to their tickets for a later date for a variety of reasons; they’re also getting financially shovel-fucked and need any available liquidity to help stay afloat or they’re overly emotional and want refunds because the events aren’t happening exactly when they wanted it to. That second group of people are also the ones that e-mail a label if their order hasn’t been shipped within hours of placing it, mostly for pre-orders.

And the musicians themselves? I hate to break the myth here, but most touring musicians are broke nomads who sacrifice stability in order to pursue what they love doing and not every one of them is like those assholes who started a GoFundMe because they wanted their fans to ensure they didn’t have to work any other job to support their egos—I mean, music. Or, and I know this is another unexpected peek behind the curtain, they’re generally fuck ups who don’t have careers and end up in the service industry (myself included). And this is where you start seeing compounding problems. Like I said, a lot of musicians supplement their incomes through what people who wear socks with sandals would consider “throwaway jobs,” mostly in the service industry. And it’s not just big events that are getting shut down but underground shows and, mercifully, local bands as well. I’d make the joke that metal fans now know how NSBM fans feel with all these show cancellations but I’m a better person than that.

Most of these kinds of shows are done at bars, which we’ve acknowledged are now getting temporarily shut down as well. Who staffs these bars for these shows? Who runs sound for these fucking things? Checks IDs at the door? Pours your fucking drinks? A lot of musicians and people involved in dedicating their lives to music. A lot of you who’re reading this or a lot of your friends (if you have any). So, this presents a serious trickle-down effect, perhaps the first time trickle-down economics actually worked, except it is hot liquid shit. So, now we have musicians, promoters, supporters and pretty much a field of adjacent folks all effected by the panic surrounding this mess. This is how the music industry’s economy grinds to a fucking halt.

My former CLRVYNT boss Fred Pessaro beat me to the punch with an excellent piece for Noisey–possibly the first musically relevant thing that site has published in quite a while–about how you can help the musicians and labels that dedicate their lives to crafting the soundtracks to yours. You don’t have to do a lot of deep diving to find out if your friends or favorite bands have been impacted and what you can do to help them through this; just listen to them. I understand that’s a rough one in this day and age but I’m confident you have the ability. You’ve had it in you all along. Another good idea would be to check places like Holy Mountain Printing, who work closely with artists. Buying merch from them directly benefits the musicians. There are plenty of companies doing similar work.

So, what are some other things you can do to help make this whole experience feel less like a genital paper cut for others? We’ve established that people in bars and restaurants are getting pinched, what about other areas? What about record stores?

Record stores already have a lot of difficulties these days without a global pandemic coming and pissing all over their collective parade. High rent, internet competition, crippling depression. It takes a lot to run a record store. And while I and likeminded others may denounce what Record Store Day has become, it’s still vitally important to some of these shops. And it’s postponed. Not that there was really anything great in this (or the last few years) release lineup, it’s not the RSD reissues of records from the ’80s you can easily find original pressings in nearly every store’s bargain bins but the influx of customers the event brings and the various other shit they might buy and, most importantly, the new relationship they may build with the store. Losing this can be a real fucking nightmare this time of year and could kill a store before it makes it to the all-important holiday season where they’re able to refill their coffers and maybe sleep a full eight hours without night terrors. So, check in with your favorite record store and see what they’re up to. Most of them will continue to peddle their wares online or stay open as long as they can before FEMA marches them out into the street at gunpoint.

So, those are some of the financial effects of COVID-19 and a few ways to try to help stop the bleeding a bit. But what if you’re broke, what can you do to help? You cannot be a festering boil of an asshole. That’s free all day long.

The amount of people complaining not only about things being cancelled but bitching about the promoters, venues and even bands themselves like it’s their fault and they’re somehow happy with the situation is pretty fucking repulsive. I doubt a single person involved likes losing their hard spent time and money or enjoys facing the demons that performing live at bay. And if that person does exist, they probably like getting kicked in the balls repeatedly. Complaining that you’ll never support bands or venues again because of this is the shitheel’s depth of selfishness. Complaining that “it’s just like a cold” is fucking stunted and shows the kind of lack of understanding that can only be expressed by watching a child touch a hot stove for the first time. I don’t know which is denser; that or people saying the virus is some government plot (pick your favorite government to be afraid of) to erase nations or start the N.O.W. Fucking grow up.

Sure, it might not be a serious illness for a lot of us. It might just mean some time in bed feeling like hell. But remember, a lot of us (and you, too, you stupid pricks) live and interact with family and loved ones that have compromised immune systems. Or maybe they’re just old. Like your parents or family. You can probably get over this somewhat fine, but they can’t. Keeping yourself healthy means a lot more to them than you. Try to keep that in mind.

And if you’re one of those genetic dead ends that boast about traveling during this sort of shit or goes to the store to buy three months’ worth of beans because you watched an episode of Doomsday Preppers, don’t be surprised if you find out people hope you get sick or worse to teach you some humility. It’s bad enough we got used to seeing stories about bands getting their vans stolen, now we have to watch everything else get ripped away from them as well. But there are ways to help. Overall just try not to be a selfish, awful puddle of a person for once in your life and if you’re able to, help out some bands and businesses. Stay calm, stay healthy and, for fuck’s sake, wash your fucking hands.