Coronavirus has taken many things from us. It has impacted all of us differently. Whether that impact is large or small it affects us all. One of the hardest-hit groups are independent musicians. With many popular venues such as bars and festivals either postponing or outright canceling their events, this has resulted in many artists struggling to find work. This hasn’t only impacted performances, but also putting a damper on groups’ ability to get together and practice.
Dane Lewis, a local musician has felt the effects of this first hand. “Prior to the pandemic, I would plan events out three months in advance. Now with all of these restrictions, it just makes finding work even harder.”
Asked how the music community has adapted “I couldn’t have picked a worse time to decide to be a full-time musician” he replied with a smile on his face. “It’s difficult for all of us. I still have other sources of income, so I’m certainly lucky. I know friends who are really having a hard time now. Things can change at the last minute and are so unpredictable.”
With the ever-growing debate on face mask use and social distancing guidelines, Dane says he has seen venues make appropriate adjustments. “You know the band went to Nashville in the beginning of August. Bars were doing things such as to-go orders and drinks but weren’t allowing dine-in seating. Nashville is such a great town for musicians, it’s disappointing to see what’s happened in regard to some of the venues. Many of these are small family-run businesses so it’s upsetting to see them struggle.
Asked on how he thinks Iowa is handling the pandemic he replied. “I certainly understand why we have social distancing policies in place. We should protect people that have weakened immune systems or the elderly. I think the hardest part is no one knows what the governor is going to do, and some business owners are afraid to push the envelope a little too far and get shut down again.”
As the shutdown has continued, Dane and his band have found creative ways to stay in touch with their fans. “Of course, we have a social media presence on sites you would expect like Facebook and Twitter. Initially, I posted videos on Facebook to interact with our fans. Later on, I started doing live streams on Twitch where if people feel comfortable, they can donate to the stream and make a request. The band has appreciated the support that we have gotten over the last few months. We certainly couldn’t do what we love without everyone who has supported us.”
Tanner Wright a recent Western Iowa Tech graduate has always had a passion for music. “I still remember how excited I was the day my parents took me to the local music store. I remember looking at all of the guitars lined up and almost feeling overwhelmed with everything. Ever since then music has been one of the most important things in my life.” After graduating from college with a degree in sound engineering, Wright went straight to work. “My first job out of college was a miserable production assistant job at a local venue. It just wasn’t for me; I just wasn’t passionate about the work.” Shortly after he would find work at a recording studio called The Sonic Factory. “While I’ve only been a part of the team for a short while, I feel like it’s a great fit.”
Asked about how the pandemic has impacted his line of work “Thankfully we have a very diverse clientele. I have friends who work in larger markets who are just having a hell of a time finding work. Some people don’t realize how expensive recording something like a multi-track project really is, particularly for people or bands just starting out. I’ve been lucky where I have lots of independent work for smaller clients.”
On August 27th Iowa governor Kim Reynolds closed bars in six counties included in that is the Des Moines area. As someone who frequently performed in the area, do you agree with this decision? “It’s difficult to say, I would be happier if there was clearer guidance from our government. But something people have to realize is that when you shut down something it has a huge negative impact on the owners of that business. I’m just concerned that there may be lasting damage to some of these businesses.”
Some would call Tucker Long a jack of all trades. Even with the pandemic raging on, that he hasn’t detoured him from finding work. “First and foremost, I am a family man. Nothing is more important to me then my family’s wellbeing. My son has an autoimmune disorder, so we have taken the pandemic very seriously.” Tucker, who is the production manager at the Hard Rock in Sioux City, knows how quickly things can change. “My job is to oversee any event that comes through either Anthem which is the indoor venue, or any outdoor events. At the beginning of the year, we had a full schedule going for us. Now all of those events are canceled for the foreseeable future. It’s been unfortunate for a lot of our staff and stage crew. I’m friends with many of these people, so it’s upsetting that they are out of income that they were expecting.”
Tucker has also seen changes in the classroom. “I teach several audio production classes at Western Iowa Tech. Thankfully our class covers a large area so there is room for social distancing. We have a lot of the same guidelines that you see at other institutions. You hate to see it because there is no way the department can do things that we have in previous years. In the past, we have the audio students set up two typically outdoor concerts with local talent. I just don’t see that happening this year.”
This uncertainty and unpredictability that everyone feels forced musicians to be more creative and to broaden their client base and stay connected to their current fans. So, we all agree that it has taken may things from us, but it’s also required people who want to stay in the industry to adapt to the ever-changing environment. We know it may never go back to the way it was before, but the future is being molded by people who love the industry and are willing to persevere.