16 May 2020
Americana Music Association UK - Members Lockdown Stories. “It is wonderfully heartening to see how the situation has been bringing out the kindness and generosity of so many people, but I worry for the future of all musicians, technicians and venue staff.”
Members Lockdown Stories, Episode 6: Sarah McQuaid
First of all, let me count my blessings. I’ve still got my health, so far. I’ve got my family around me, we’ve got a roof over our heads, and we’re surrounded by woods and fields where we can go for walks without getting into a car or meeting anyone else. We are fortunate.
But ... I’m still feeling blindsided. I’ve been a full time musician for over twelve years, and it was starting to seem like I was getting somewhere. I really thought that at the end of my 49-show spring tour I’d be able to pay off a big chunk of the debt that I’ve been building along with my career. Now 39 of those shows have been cancelled, and it could be a long, long time before things get back to the way they were.
It’s not just the money worries that are getting to me; it’s the loss of the magic that happens when a bunch of people are in a room enjoying music together, whether they’re listening to a concert or taking part in a singaround, session or choir practice. I miss that magic so much.
Live-streaming isn’t a solution for me; I’d never be satisfied with the technical quality, and more importantly, I don’t feel that the magic would be there. So here’s an idea:
I wrote those words in an email to my newsletter subscribers at the beginning of May, along with an invitation to contribute towards the costs of that idea: an album to be recorded “as live” (minus audience) in a beautiful, inspiring setting, and filmed for a series of videos. The response has been amazing: three days after sending the email I was already halfway to my goal, although contributions have slowed since and I’ve got a ways to go … but it looks like the project will be able to happen whenever the lockdown permits, and I’m grateful for that.
Of course, I’ll also need money to live on. I’ve been lucky enough to get grants from the Arts Council and PRS Foundation, and I should be getting something from the Self Employment Income Support Scheme, but it won’t amount to much, as my profits have always been minimal. So I’ve set up a Patreon page and am pinning my hopes on that!
It’s even worse for my sound engineer, who’s not eligible for the SEISS as over 50% of his income was from short-term PAYE contracts at theatres; he can’t get Universal Credit either, because his partner has a job. He’s been working and paying taxes all his adult life, and he’s left with nothing.
It is wonderfully heartening to see how the situation has been bringing out the kindness and generosity of so many people, but I worry for the future of all musicians, technicians and venue staff. Will we ever be able to get back to doing what we do and love best? I wish I knew the answer. Sending love to all!