It's the vibrations of the mega-sized speakers screaming your favorite song back at you, the crowds of sweat-covered but serotonin-filled fans, the colorful lights that seem to transform the once-normal seeming arena, the electricity flowing through the entire atmosphere that makes you feel the most alive you have in months- you watch the scene unfold through the glass screen of your phone as you press repeat on the same video over and over again and you think: remember when?
Remember when we could go to our favorite artists' concerts with our friend and soak in the feeling of seeing something you had only heard through earbuds come to life? Yeah, me too. Ever since the arrival of the pandemic though, the live music industry has come to a screeching halt and does not seem to be picking up anytime soon. Us concert-junkies are now restricted to watching old videos of our favorite memories... and praying to God that our tickets will be rescheduled to a new date in the near future.
While not being able to play their music live is surely a scary thing for artists to face right now, there is another group behind the stage that is suffering either more: the crew. Every year, thousands of people are employed to travel the world, building and breaking down sets, managing sound and lights, escorting artists through their days and ensuring the safety of those beloved crowds. With the sudden stop of the live music industry came the end of every single person's way of living- thousands of people not only no longer knew when their next paycheck was coming, but they also had little to no hope of returning to their livelihood anytime soon. The health and safety guidelines of Covid-19 completely bar concerts from taking place (logically), but unlike restaurants, stores or film sets, there is no way to adjust the settings to protect everyone's health. Hundreds of concerts were either postponed or cancelled all together in a matter of months.
As of December, there is still no progress being made to allow for in-person concerts to return, and the people that once worked day and night to create amazing live shows are no closer to returning to their stable careers. However it is has not been a completely hopeless situation. In the past couple months, many artists have stepped up to the plate to provide financial support for their loyal tour crews the same way students are now attending school- virtually.
Popular Irish singer Niall Horan is just one celebrity to organize an entire concert where the only attendees were him, his band and his crew. Horan sold spots in a Zoom meeting in the form of virtual tickets to his extremely large fan-base and put on an entire show through a computer screen. And the best part? Not only was each and every crew member paid as if it was a normal tour stop, but all the profit from the ticket and merchandise sales was donated to the recently formed organization We Need Crew, which provides financial support to the thousands of displayed crew workers.
Australian rock band 5 Seconds of Summer recently released a merch-line in collaboration with We Need Crew, the proceeds of which will be distributed to not only members of the host organization but other groups supporting the live music work force. As the pandemic stretches on and on, We Need Crew continues to provide for the people that make our favorite musical experiences possible.
While foundations like We Need Crew are definitely a spot of hope in this dark age of music, it is important to remember why such efforts are having to be taken in the first place. Without live shows, both artists, crews and venues are suffering immensely. Think of it as one giant chain: if venues can not host concerts they can not pay bills and have to close. When we do return to our normal lives and concerts are once again deemed safe activities, artists can not play at boarded-up concert halls. If artists can not schedule shows and tours, they can not hire tour crews, and thus the live music industry remains crippled forever.
Without federal help or a quick return to concert-going life, we can most likely say goodbye to normal live music experience and exchange it for a new, pandemic-appropriate (and permanent) virtual show. It is groups like We Need Crew that are barely keeping this iconic industry afloat, but there needs to be help from higher-up, and it needs to come soon.
If you would like to contribute to the efforts of We Need Crew, visit their website for information about donating. You can also check out their Instagram page here to see which artists they are currently working on collaboration with here.