“How do you cope with it?” Electronic music during Covid-19

Plastic installation for New Scenery. Photo by Camilla Simmons

During the past few months, the Covid-19 outbreak has radically changed habits and perspectives for billions of people around the world. While many countries struggle with a dramatic health emergency, the economic kickbacks cause concerns in many workers involved in the most vulnerable sectors.

The music industry is definitely one of them. According to the social distancing measures suggested by experts, concerts, gigs and parties have been forced to stop indefinitely. Even if they may be allowed to reopen soon, many clubs could face serious financial troubles for the lockdown months, and the festival season in Europe and North America seems to be already compromised. Nonetheless, the preventive measures set by various governments have directly impacted several other businesses in which personal contact is still prominent, like record shops and recording studios.

This unprecedented crisis is hardly trying thousands of artists and insiders, suddenly running out of their sources of income. As many argue, while major companies and artists can more easily face such an out of the ordinary state, the smallest ones may have the biggest troubles.

Soul Feeder has sought to feel the pulse of the underground electronic music scene. We have reached out to artists, promoters, record shop owners and festival organizers across the world, asking them how they are coping amid the Covid-19 outbreak. We have discussed their points of view and their perception of what’s happening around us in the music world, collecting impressions from artists (Bulma, Odete, Jasper Jarvis, Miss Jay), festivals (Soft Centre), clubs (Oil Club, Acud Macht Neu) and record shops (Idle Hands, EXP Records).

Here is what they told us.

 

BULMA (SUICIDE CLUB)

Bulma is a DJ, producer and promoter based in Barcelona, Spain, where he co-runs the well-known party Suicide Club at Razzmatazz club.

How has the Covid-19 outbreak impacted your business and your local electronic music community?

Well, all my gigs income is gone. My quarterly Suicide Club party in Barcelona Razzmatazz nightclub is also on standby, so I’m only left with digital sales, and merch. In summer I usually work in various electronic music festivals, but they have a very uncertain future right now. I know people working in nightclubs, producers, promoters, technicians and everybody is pretty much in the same position right now, looking for a different job or asking for loans.

How are you coping with the current situation? How is your local scene responding to it?

I moved to Barcelona eight months ago, and left my sidejob to spend all my time doing music, so my routine hasn’t really changed. Actually, I’m fine at home with my girlfriend both working everyday on our projects. I really miss going to party on the weekend though. But I have use this time to work on my first sample pack, I have been doing some tutorials, mixing other producers tracks, basically thinking on how to make it through these times.

Have you received some kind of support from the scene, from public institutions or from others? 

At the moment my landlord spared me the rent, and I’m really thankful to my fans for buying my music, my sample pack and my merch. On the other hand, I have been asked multiples times to participate in covid compilation by giving free work, and I’m wondering how artists can survive by doing so.

How do you imagine you and the electronic music world will face this situation in the near and long-term future?

Regarding clubs and festivals, I have realized that even if they reopen, in Spain for example, you won’t be able to book international artists as the borders are closed. Maybe this will be an opportunity to showcase the local scene. Also they are speaking of opening again but maybe at half capacity, big clubs are gonna look really empty, and there is gonna be less money for DJ fees if the clubs survives. On a positive note, the best thing happening right now is to go on Twitch. All my favorites producers are showing how they work, it’s a great time to grow your knowledge. As they all are mainstream producers, I’m watching how they handle the crisis and what’s gonna be their next move.

 

CHRIS FARRELL (IDLE HANDS)

Chris Farrell is a dj and owner of the iconic Idle Hands label and record shop. Located in Bristol, UK, it’s a reference point for music lovers across Great Britain and worldwide.

How has the Covid-19 outbreak impacted your business and your local electronic music community?

I have always prioritised the physical shop over the website, in the last month I have had to start thinking like the larger mail order retailers – which although hard work I am enjoying. Here in the UK all pubs and clubs are closed, so nothing happening apart from streams. Chatting to music producing friends some are being very productive others are struggling to get ideas down. I think the low level anxiety we all have over this thing affects different people differently. As an owner of a record label it has made me think slightly different about the output, or at least how I approach releasing stuff. I had a very dancefloor focused project ready for release and have pushed that back to prioritise a couple of other things that are more dread heavy, felt more fitting for the times! As a DJ I have been so busy in the shop that I haven’t found time to mix. I have to work by myself because of social distancing (I usually have some help) so I am struggling with time. I am hoping to soon though, it is usually a big part of my weekly routine, sorting out music on both vinyl and digital and practising of course.

How are you coping with the current situation, and how is your local scene responding to it? Have you received some kind of support from the scene, from public institutions or from others?

At the start I was very concerned and made a social media post about that, as a result the shop received a lot of support from the local community and the wider music scene. That little boost helped both financially and mentally. I know the shop means something to people and that has given me hope of getting through this thing. I am one of the lucky ones, I only have to worry about my business whilst others are worrying about their health.

How do you imagine you and the electronic music world will face this situation in the near and long-term future?

I just really want to be back in the club, I’m not sure how long that will be. I want to hear some music loud! I wish I knew how it will work out but I think at the moment it is still early days so who knows.

 

DONA AKA DJ PLANT TEXTURE (EXP RECORDS)

Dona AKA Dj Plant Texture is a DJ and producer based in Bari, in southern Italy. Since 2017, he has been running EXP Records, his vinyl shop that soon became a catalyst for the local scene

How has the Covid-19 outbreak impacted your business and your local electronic music community?

The impact was massive, I really never expect anything like this. The shop is obviously closed due to the various restrictions by the government and the worst side of all this is that I really don’t know when I’ll be able to open again. Also a record shop is a place where you can meet and touch music, so I guess will be really hard in the future to manage a business mostly done of interaction by people without giving them the chance to spend some time together. On the economical side, I really don’t know what to think, probably the vinyl market will collapse because of the economical crisis, especially in South of Italy where we don’t have so much work and it’s definitely not a rich place (most of the customer at the shop don’t have a “real” job), I guess I’ll have to evolve in something else maybe. On the artist side is a total disaster, also because being an artist helps me to keep all the scene around the shop alive, and for now, I see no future or chance to have a gig till the end of the year maybe.

How are you coping with the current situation? How is your local scene responding to it? Have you received some kind of support from the scene, from public institutions or from others?

I personally received great support from people in the small scene grew around in the shop in the past three years, public institution will be a ghost I guess in the near future, they have to solve more “difficult” problem ATM. I just hope the local scene born around EXP Records will not disappear after all this, that could be really hard to manage for me.

How do you imagine you and the electronic music world will face this situation in the near and long-term future?

The only way to imagine all this life post-Covid is actually to learn live with the virus, being more responsible and taking the right precautions. It’s 2 months that people are locked at home, contagion is still going and basically the economy of Italy is done, I guess being locked for another 2 months will not bring us the safety we all need. Also, about the streaming and things, THIS WILL NEVER EVER replace what we had before and how we used to live the nightlife before, I mean it’s good for now for just being busy in some ways but… hey… it’s not and never will be the same.

 

JASPER JARVIS (NEW SCENERY)

Jasper Jarvis is a London-based dj and producer. They co-runs the New Scenery project, hosting events and releasing music to foster equality for women, non binary and LGBTQ+ people in the music scene

How has the Covid-19 outbreak impacted your artist activities and your local electronic music community?

The current situation has had a big push and pull effect. I currently have no gigs, and future gigs were cancelled etc. But gradually its given me amazing headspace, to self evaluate myself and and focus on what I want to put out there. So my current music project has turned into a much larger space series, which delves into the realms of film, and 3D pieces haha. In terms of the local electronic scene in London, naturally there are no nights going on, including our own at New Scenery (having to postpone are large summer plans). However, I believe everyone in our community is finding their space, and in the same way how it has shaped my practice, i think our ideas and approaches towards how we circulate and perform music may be forever changed, which again could either be deflating or an exciting prospect. I guess the answer for that tho is a long waiting game.

How are you coping with the current situation? How is your local scene responding to it? Have you received some kind of support from the scene, from public institutions or from others? 

I’m dealing okay, I think like everyone there is good and bad days. I communicate and keep in contact with my close friends, but I’m spacing myself away from social media, as currently there’s a high saturation of miss rona media content, which most days I can’t hack seeing. In terms of support, my friends have been my main source of support, and the generosity of friends around me has enabled me to live whilst having lost my job due to this. So I feel privileged in that sense, but institutionally I think any effort to help or to be honest, save the creative scene isn’t evident from our government. So sad time indeed with the current climate, and the new year prospect for creatives being impacted by Brexit.

How do you imagine you and the electronic music world will face this situation in the near and long-term future?

Its so hard to tell or even predict what the outcome within the scene will be post miss rona, I guess thats another daunting factor myself and my friends are facing. There’s so many facets to what is going on, which i think I’ve kind of touched in the previous questions. But honestly i think the best thing is to stay positive, the remaining factor that can’t be governed or taken away from anyone is your freedom to produce and create sound, art, and music, and your self-care. I think all the peeps need to take it a day at a time, don’t feel any pressures or have any capitalist structures feeding an ideology that productivity has to be utilised whilst having a period of isolation, or somehow this is “the right time to work on it”. To those who currently are key workers and creatives, I also want to shout out my love and appreciation, and wishing your staying safe too. But to round off the question, I have faith as a community that we will figure new ways in shaping how the music world is navigated if it comes to it.

 

JULIE GAYARD & JOHANNES BRAUN (ACUD MACHT NEU)

Julie Gayard und Johannes Braun (Photo Credit: Thaddeus Hermann)

In 2014 the ACUD MACHT NEU initiative saved the Kulturhaus ACUD from bankruptcy and has since set in motion interdisciplinary projects on the intersection of art, music, performance and digital media in their spaces Studio, Club and Gallery.

How has the Covid-19 outbreak impacted your business / your artist activities and your local electronic music community?

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak we had to cancel all the program in our 3 venues (ACUD club, ACUD studio, ACUD gallery), around 30 events per month. Between March and June is usually the busiest period and financially the most important one of the year for us, it helps us to cover the lower summer period. We still have some ongoing projects that are funded (Amplify Berlin, Collective Practices) and can adapt to the current situation, but they only cover the actual projects and the team members who work for them – the rest of the program, everyone else in the team and the business in general is really affected by the closure.

Infos about the funded projects:
AMPLIFY BERLIN is a music residency program with a one to one mentorship that can happen online. Only the final concerts at the end of each month can’t happen at the moment but will hopefully be postponed. And we had an amazing AMPLIFY live streaming with Unitedwestream and ArteConcert.
COLLECTIVE PRACTICES is a discursive and multidisciplinary series that just kicked off and is now being adapted to online formats.

How are you coping with the current situation? How is your local scene responding to it? Have you received some kind of support from the scene, from public institutions or from others? If so, how?

The scene in Berlin and our community has been extremely supportive. We did a crowdfunding campaign and got huge resonance and support from our community, with the raised money we were able to support our team members who are in urgent need in the first months. And we received financial support from the city/state, that every small business could apply for, to cover general costs and employees. Also the amazing artists poster initiative 2020Solidarity by Wolfgang Tillmans is supporting us by giving us free posters that people can buy from us as support. But all this will only cover the next 2-3 months. The question is still how it will go on afterwards.

How do you imagine you and the electronic music world will face this situation in the near and long-term future?

There are many new creative ideas for digital formats, and also for direct support of the artists by buying their records directly from them for example – so the positive side is that more support and solidarity is coming out of all of this, communities are being activated and created, and the hope is that they will stay on a long term. Also a general consciousness for more sustainability within the club scene could come out of it – to work more with local scenes, not always having to fly in DJs from far away just for one night.

But we still don’t know how long it will be until we can go to a live concert or club night again – and what will the restrictions be? Since we are not only a club and concert venue but also a gallery, a place for screenings, lectures, panels and performances, we are thinking of different ways to finance our program without the club nights and concerts – but we don’t have the answers yet.

 

LUCY (WARMCHAINSS & AGEUSIA SHENZHEN)

Lucy at OIL CLUB in 2017  (Photo Credit: OIL CLUB)

Warmchainss is one of China’s most interesting uprising DJs right now and runs the Shenzhen nightlife series ‘Ageusia’.

How has the Covid-19 outbreak impacted your business and your local electronic music community?

Venues are shut and being broke also shows got cancelled, also we couldn’t book people from overseas but I think it’s also a good chance for saving and supporting the local scene.

How are you coping with the current situation? How is your local scene responding to it?

I was still making lot of mixes during the quarantine, and OIL even made a local radio station for supporting more local musicians and so we are all trying our best during the quarantine.

Have you received some kind of support from the scene, from public institutions or from others? If so, how?

Of course I received lots of love and support from so many ppl from the scene like Zora Jones, renick bell, Fela Gucci from FAKA, ptwiggs for sure and many more…. it’s just a really hard time for everyone especially for those who made music their full-time job, so we just keep texting to each other’s and sending supports and so appreciated have friends keep checking on me too. It means a lot!

How do you imagine you and the electronic music world will face this situation in the near and long-term future?

I think there are a  lot of possibilities for musicians artists to express their feelings at the special moment. Also the isolation of the epidemic has led to higher productivity and it’s certainly going to push the music forward. For the club scene, I wish people will appreciate the dance floor and music more and not afraid to release the energy with their bodies on the dance floor.

 

MISS JAY (SOUL FEEDER)

Miss Jayis a DJ and producer currently based in Milan, Italy. She’s also a member of the Soul Feeder collective and has been involved in various online projects during the quarantine.

How has the covid-19 outbreak impacted your artist activities and your local electronic music community?

I got pretty scared at first with gigs being cancelled and opportunities to book new ones completely gone. But apart from the “business” point of view, as a human being this type of thing is new, strange and you have no idea how to cope with. Back when things were normal I complained about lack of time. Now, as the world just hit the pause button, plenty of time came with it. So I worked on a good amount of material these past few weeks!

How are you coping with the current situation? How is your local scene responding to it?

The internet is the new club! I cannot speak at a local level anymore. Through the power of livestreams and online radios, a lot of people in the scene are coming up with all sorts of activities. Apart from the regular DJ sets I have seen performances, visual experiences, speeches, raves in video games, producer cyphers and I’m sure there are many more things beyond that out there. It is an unexpected, yet exciting direction, which, at least for now, I am a fan of. Also, some initiatives take a step further and raise money for good causes (e.g. Sirens Scrapyard, Avantgardening etc.).

Have you received some kind of support from the scene, from public institutions or from others?

Realistically speaking, music is not paying the bills (hopefully I can change this statement in the future). But of course, any support that comes from it is welcome. People are actually purchasing my releases, and I really appreciate the generosity that they have shown me with each and every one of them. However, the continuous moral support that was shown to me throughout this time and even before from fellow artists and listeners has been amazing, and it keeps me going. Thank you for all the love!

How do you imagine you and the electronic music world will face this situation in the near and long-term future?

I believe that the “internet club” phenomenon will be a constant for our entertainment needs for a while. Even more people will start to do it, which gives a chance for smaller artists to reach a broader audience. Although it will become oversaturated, this will be the only option for a long time.

 

ODETE (CIRCA A.D.)

Odeteis a Portuguese dj, producer, visual artist and performer. She’s a member of the Lisbon LGBTQ+ artistic collective Circa After Death.

How has the Covid-19 outbreak impacted your business and your local electronic music community?

The Covid-19 outbreak pretty much suspended all activity outside my bedroom, that is, all the gigs and encounters that my career provided. Therefore, it stopped all my money making. I kind of fell into this survival mode that made me loose most interest in producing, because I saw no purpose. The future was more empty than usual and so the purpose of art seemed lost. Music I made during this time existed as a kind of therapy – not to be listened and very immediate in it’s creation.

How are you coping with the current situation? How is your local scene responding to it?

My local scene is responding in the same way other scenes are responding: by buying music from local producers, by making livestreams and uniting online. Some festivals are paying artists for lives but most people are not financed by the state so everything is happening with no currency – which is not new but it became even more normalised in this state of things. I’m all for exchanging music and knowledge for free, as I do it all the time, but when I see institutions asking for free work during such a crisis it seems wrong to support, even if it’s just by watching the live idk… I’m not coping that well with this situation, be it politically, mentally, emotionally – it seems like I’m lost in a maze of things and I can’t feel or see clearly anymore

Have you received some kind of support from the scene, from public institutions or from others?

I did receive support – I was payed to do a livestream performance by the Portuguese bienal BOCA and people have been buying my EP, so that is good! I’ve also done a compilation to support some local people that were supposed to play at my release party and that is going ok, even though I wish they were receiving more money. The state of Portugal is also releasing some financial support for independent workers and that is basically paying my rent.

How do you imagine you and the electronic music world will face this situation in the near and long-term future?

I really hope we find ways, as a community, to create resources outside the LIVE GIG THINGY. not only to open up possibilities for other types of connection but also to have strategies that stimulate our growth beyond the restrictions of legality and so on that run venue spaces. Creating online parties, avatars, other types of music, other types of sharing, seem like ways to deal also with the lack of financial resource some people face in the live world. It seems expression can find other ways that can complement each other. ALSO, I hope people understand how much we need each other – more than we need institutions, that fails us all the time. Buying each other music, sharing each other music, giving no fucks for how we look in social media and so on and SHARING AND NURTURING THE ART OF EVERYONE WE LOVE. I really  hope we start engaging more with each other with no elitism or pretentiousness.

 

SAM WHITESIDE, THICK OWENS & JEMMA COLE  (SOFT CENTRE)

SOFT CENTRE is a festival for experimental arts that has taken place in the surroundings of Sydney, Australia, every year in September since 2017.

How has the Covid-19 outbreak impacted your business and your local electronic music community? 

Event cancellations and postponements are having an unprecedented impact on Australia’s arts and music communities. An independent data capture project called I Lost my Gig has tallied 340 million dollars in loss of income with more to be accounted for. For SOFT CENTRE specifically the pandemic has resulted in the indefinite postponement of curation opportunities abroad and a big rethink to our 2020 calendar. The uncertainty around travel restrictions and the duration of these social distancing rules makes it difficult to plan for the future. But it is encouraging to see how quickly people are adapting and continuing to create and collaborate via correspondence. If there was ever a time to shift old paradigms, it would be now.

How are you coping with the current situation? How is your local scene responding to it? Have you received some kind of support from the scene, from public institutions or from others? If so, how? 

Our community has always been incredibly resourceful in the face of a crisis and we are just trying to support each other, stay connected, maintain positivity and develop adaptable plans for what lies ahead. We are seeing a huge influx of live-stream parties, home-listening mixes and curated playlists to boost financial support for independent artists who have previously relied on live performances and social gatherings to sustain themselves. Some great local initiatives keeping us connected include Aybetonye’s Irregular Fit x Ante pres. LAN parties which are raising funds for DJs and performers of colour and Betty Grumble’s  Grumble Boogie aerobics classes. We’ve also started an artist-curated playlist series on Currents.

How do you imagine you and the electronic music world will face this situation in the near and long-term future?

In the words of Saturnalia ‘this crisis has revealed the ongoing status of underground music as fringe culture, as non-essential to the narrative of power structure’.
The inevitable economic downturn that will follow from this scenario necessitates a move away from market based practices and commercial notions of value. Our continued survival hinges heavily on funding from a government that continues to slash funding for the arts – we need to use this time to research new finance models and ways of organising and building support networks between audiences, artists and organisations. Obviously we’ve seen a resurging interest in virtuality and the internet as an events platform. Not to say that these mediums are novel or a substitute for AFK events, but isolation has definitely pushed people to innovate further. NeuroXcape and nu.cenosis are two recent highlights that come to mind – both cleverly integrated 3D environments, chat rooms and custom avatars to create virtual events that felt genuinely immersive. It was amazing to see participants from all corners of the world come together. The experimental scene in Australia is quite small and insular, so it’s nice to be reminded that there are lots of people out there interested in the same things as us. Community is so essential to the success of any event and we’re learning that physical distance doesn’t have to preclude that! However, these events were still hosted on for-profit apps [IMVU, Club Cooee] and it would be interesting to see them de-platform entirely – hosted on their own servers and domains – potentially with a subscription model to create a direct line of patronage between the organisers and their community. 

 

This article has been written with contributions from the Soul Feeder’s editorial team. The interviews have been conducted by Thomas Borgogni, Sarah Fewtrell, Lorenzo Montefinese and Michele Sinatti.

More from Francesco Cellino

FARWARMTH – Momentary Glow Review

Afonso Ferreira is not a new name in the Portuguese underground scene....
Read More