This week in RCS Music News Weekly: Alan Cross (Q107) offers unvarnished advice to musicians about getting radio play, Spotify, and why you should jump in the van; Canadian singer/producer Machi announces free videos on her YouTube channel to show people how to make music, from creating it to releasing an album; and Ontarians wonder what color Doug Ford will pour out on May 20th from the Response Framework Froot Loops box of colors.
Trial Concerts Rock Liverpool and Wuhan
With COVID numbers dropping in England, the British government backed a two-day mini music festival in Liverpool last week as part of a research program to restart mass-audience music events.
Music Fans Literally Raved
On April 30th, around 3,000 people attended a government-backed rave in a UK nightclub where attendees (age 18-20) had to test negative for COVID at least 24 hours prior to the event and were not required to wear masks or socially distance.
Two days later, 5,000 music fans packed into Sefton Park in south Liverpool for a live concert headlined by the English indie band Blossoms. Like the April 30th event, music fans had to test negative for COVID prior to the concert and did not have to wear masks or socially distance.
By analyzing audience movement, ventilation, alcohol consumption, and other factors from the event, researchers ultimately hope to work out how summer music festivals can go ahead in the UK after June 21st, when the government’s reopening map will (in theory) see the end of restrictions on social contact.
On the Other Side of Eurasia, It Was a Similar Story
Similarly last weekend, around 11,000 people attended the two-day Strawberry Music Festival in Wuhan’s Garden Expo park, where domestic bands performed across three stages. With Wuhan almost virus-free (according to official data) and reduced fears in China about infection, some attendees wore masks, but most did not.
Liverpool and Wuhan Are Just the Latest in Trial Concerts
Last March, medical researchers staged a trial concert similar to the Liverpool event at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, and post-event data analysis showed that no proven cases of COVID transmission took place. Also last March, the Dutch government approved the Back to Live music festival as part of the country’s efforts to see how concerts, theatre performances, sports events, and conferences can be made safe again during the pandemic.
How Did It Feel for Fans to Attend Live Music Again?
Unsurprisingly, emotions ran high at all events.
At the Strawberry Music Festival, 23-year-old student and Wuhan resident Gao Yuchen said to Reuters, “Last year, we (in Wuhan) suffered from the coronavirus. It has not been easy to get where we are today. People here have put in huge efforts and paid a big price (for being hit with the virus). So, I feel very excited to be here (at the festival).”
At the Liverpool rave, one student called Josh said while cued up outside the venue, “We’re excited. We’re all on the verge of tears, ready to go in.”
At the Back to Live concert, the German news service Deutsche Welle reported, “Once inside, many people fell into each others’ arms. Some erupted into cheers. Others broke into song. The mood on this Saturday morning in mid-March was euphoric.”
Meanwhile, Ontario Bands and Music Fans Continue to Live in a Bowl of Froot Loops
Under Ontario lockdown conditions that were not recommended by health experts and described by CBC as an arbitrary, panicked response to third-wave modelling based more on politics than public health, bands can’t even livestream from empty music venues under Premier Doug Ford’s “emergency brake” plan (currently scheduled to lift May 20th).
Later admitting he moved too fast—especially around closing playgrounds and giving law enforcement the power to stop, question, and fine people for not having a good excuse for being outside—Ford apologized for his mistakes, adding, “I understand your frustration.”
While RCS Music News Weekly suspects Ford’s apology was sincere, the scope of how much he understands the frustration of Ontarians arguably may not fully include the Canadian music industry, since Doug Ford has never played in a band, worked in the music industry, or relied on it for income. So, like all Ontarians, bands, music fans, and rehearsal/recording facilities like Royal City Studios can only wait and see what happens on May 20th.
RCS Music News Weekly won’t hazard a guess as to what may happen. Yet case numbers continue to drop in Guelph and Wellington-Dufferin.
As posted on Facebook on May 4th by Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik, founder and Medical Director at Hope Health Center Guelph, “Under 2,800 new cases today” in Ontario, adding, “Percent positivity down 2% too,” all of which provides hope for the region moving back into red or orange under the COVID-19 Response Framework. Yet until that happens, Ontarians basically remain stuck in a giant cereal bowl above which the Ford government holds the colors of the Response Framework like a giant box of Froot Loops, and it’s anybody’s guess what color will come pouring out and whether there will be enough milk to choke it all down.
Unvarnished Musical Advice from Alan Cross
If you missed Global News’ May 2nd commentary piece by Canadian radio broadcaster Alan Cross (Q107, 102.1 The Edge), here’s some of the unvarnished advice he offers to musicians:
- Spotify is not a great platform for bands to get discovered. Around 20% of uploaded tracks never get streamed once. Ridiculous you say? Visit Forgetify to see for yourself.
- Most mainstream radio stations won’t even look at your music submission because they’re not in the business of playing unknown music by unsigned artists.
- Cross recommends what RCS Music News Weekly recommended some time ago in the RCS blog Why Radio Still Matters (and other blogs). “Focus your energies on campus radio or blogs that specialize in discovering music.”
- Focus on your art. If it resonates with people, the money will come.
- Jump in a van, hit the road, and play lots of places. Shower, sleep, repeat. Cross recommends watching the Dave Grohl documentary What Drives Us to understand why this is important.
- Build a fanbase—even if it’s one fan at a time—and always be authentic.
How to Release an Album: New Videos by Machi
Canadian singer Machi just announced that her YouTube channel now features videos showing people how to make music, from creating it to releasing an album.
As a multi-genre songwriter and music producer, Machi (Marilou Burnel) was mentored by American singer-songwriter John Oszajca, received extensive online radio airplay from 2014 to 2018, and has a new trance album coming called Sleeping Well.
“It took me so long to figure everything out,” says Machi. “Making your first album from scratch is a challenge and there are no online resources to help you with this.” Machi hopes her YouTube videos can help other artists avoid time, confusion, and trouble getting their music recorded and released.
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Until then, here’s looking forward to the end of lockdowns and a fresh start so perfectly captured in Extra Gum’s hilarious new 2021 commercial, we just had to share it.