How will the music industry have changed when it comes out of lockdown?

Music Week

Boris Johnson's lockdown address last night contained little of substance for the music industry.

While the Prime Minister did announce some minor lifting of restrictions, it won't be until June 1 that music retail has a realistic chance of reopening, and then only if conditions are met. The prospect of live music returning is even more remote; while Johnson did say some hospitality businesses may be able to reopen from July 1, again subject to conditions, it seems unlikely that concert venues will be first on the list.

But at least now we have the beginnings of a timetable for life to start to get back to something approaching normality.

Exactly what that new normal will mean for the music business remains to be seen. Some businesses, particularly small, independent traders and those in the live sector, will have been financially devastated by the coronavirus crisis. Others may have escaped largely unscathed in commercial terms.

But everyone, you suspect, will have learned something about how they do business. The bigger question is how that changes things going forward.

What if artists decide they like spending more time being creative and less time on the promotional treadmill?

Music Week

Many artists, robbed of the change to connect with their fans at live shows, have been in fertile form. What if they decide they quite like life with more time spent being creative and less time on the promotional treadmill?

Many record companies will have been pleasantly surprised to find out how much they can do remotely (will every label need a gleaming office in central London in the future, one wonders?), but also how doing more with fewer releases can pay dividends.

You suspect both changes in attitude might intersect in a fundamental change in how records are made and released, with greater emphasis on initial writing and recording and the result's shelf life, with touring perhaps coming later in the lifespan of a body of work.

But then touring itself, as this column noted recently, is also going to have to change. Big live shows are likely to be the last part of the music industry jigsaw to fall back into place and, as much as we're all desperate for the buzz of live music to return, who knows how long some restrictions might remain in place for?

Until that happens, we’re all going to have to exist within a very different landscape, while trying to make sure all aspects of the industry can thrive again at some point in the future.

But, rest assured, however life in the UK looks by the time you read this, music will find a way. It always does.

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