"How do you keep the music playing?
How do you make it last?
How do you keep the song from fading
- Alan and Marilyn Bergman, "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?"
Monday nights are usually quiet in New York: Broadway is shut, museums and galleries are closed, jazz clubs are either dark or have a house band playing. But, this Monday is different: there is no music, no art, no activity to be seen anywhere. Life as we know it has shut down for an unknowable period of time, thanks to this horrible, contagious, deadly coronavirus that has spread unchecked throughout the city, and around the world. Everything is on Pause.
Art and culture certainly come second to health and welfare, but looking at the impact COVID-19 is having just on music in New York City shows just how extraordinary and unprecedented a moment this is. As of today, both the Met and the Phil have canceled the remainder of their seasons, and the loss of income from ticket sales (estimated in the tens of millions of dollars) is compounded by the impact the concurrent stock market crash has had on their endowments. Carnegie and BAM and the Met Museum will try to reopen in May, but I wouldn't bank on it. All that planning, all those sets, all those bookings made years in advance - gone.
Of course, these are major institutions with the resources to continue providing their employees with full benefits, if not at least partial pay. They should survive (I think.) But, what about all of the independent musicians: the new music peeps, the jazz players, the indie rockers, the bluegrass and old time fiddlers? Most of them get paid by the gig, and have little, if any safety net.
What about the clubs? Blue Note and the Vanguard aren't going anywhere, but what about Smalls or Smoke? I'm sure Bowery will be fine, but what about the standalone places, like LPR or Elsewhere, not to mention the dozens and dozens of bars that showcase live music on a nightly basis? I assume the better-capitalized new music venues like National Sawdust and Roulette are ok, while others can probably just go into hibernation and come out fine on the other side of this.
Hopefully, this thing will blow over before long (though probably not as soon as some irresponsible leaders would like) and we'll all be back to gigging with a beer or two. In the meantime, go stream some opera, symphonies, or random bedroom gigs. And remember what live music brings to your life, now that we don't have it. Stay safe, and remember to wash your hands.