In a previous blog post, I explored how staying connected to your hobbies and interests online throughout COVID-19 is one way of keeping well and retaining a sense of connection and – to coin an over-used term, ‘normality’ – during such a tough time.
So often, our interests centre on creative activity such as music, film, theatre and art. The talented people behind these arts, such as musicians, actors and comedians, have been hit hard by the pandemic – with the closure of venues and cancellation of events meaning that new avenues of income and audience engagement are more important than ever. For many small and mid-level creatives, particularly those operating independently, it is no exaggeration to say that livelihoods are at stake. So as consumers and fans of the arts, we’re duty-bound to provide support and make a return on the entertainment that has kept so many of us distracted and that bit happier throughout the last few months of lockdown.
Singer Hayley Williams, of Paramore fame, explained to the LA Times:
“Musicians who are used to traveling in packs and waking up in a different town every night are now stuck at home indefinitely, worried about their next gig, if not their next meal. Everyone is struggling with uncertainty. For those with mental health issues, the stress can become unmanageable”.
Fortunately, there is a multitude of digital platforms that allow fan communities to stay invested in their favourite creatives and ease at least the financial element of the pressures that artists are facing:
Patreon is a subscription service allowing fans to become members of an artists’ community and receive perks and rewards based on the tier and level of support they choose. Musicians have used the platform to share previously unreleased material and offer access to footage or downloads; Youtubers provide exclusive video content to their Patreon community; photographers offer high-quality downloads and physical prints. It’s an example of a truly reciprocal relationship between creator and fan, and in lockdown it’s a great way to spend that extra money you may have otherwise spent at a gig, exhibition and other ‘real life’ events, in a considered and constructive way.
‘Zoom fatigue’ is a real thing – with so many of us pinned to our kitchen tables or home offices shouting “you’re on mute” for hours at a time – but there’s another way to use the platform for more entertaining purposes! Musicians have started hosting live shows via Zoom, with fans tuning in to enjoy a set from the comfort of their own home. Steven Page, who I play cajon for, just this week hosted his thirteenth consecutive Saturday night Zoom show, during which he encourages fans to join with their video to create a more realistic gig setting – fans from over the world sing and dance along, building a pretty joyful sense of community. Steven also takes requests on social media in the lead-up to the shows, and has cleverly combined Zoom and Patreon, hosting exclusive gigs and request-only shows on Zoom for his Patreon members.
Cameo is an online marketplace allowing people to purchase bespoke shout-outs from creators, influencers and celebrities. You can find notable names, from Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), and even Carole Baskin (Tiger King), and many of these public figures are supporting COVID-19 relief funds from their Cameo income. Comedian Alistair Green has opened up an account since lockdown and his birthday wishes, priced at ~£30, provide a unique gift in lieu of the in-person gatherings and parties we may usually host for a special occasion. If you don’t particularly want or need a shout-out message, then sites like Ko-fi instead allow you to simply make a donation (or “buy a coffee”) for acts you’d like to support.
The wellbeing benefits of music, art, comedy and theatre are well-documented. Mental health should be considered in a broad, community-focused context, and so the withdrawal of the arts from our societal landscape inevitably has a damaging impact on our collective mood. The arts can offer wellbeing solutions that common medical practice hasn’t and won’t ever be able to effectively address – and music in particular (listening and performing) helps improve cognition, attention and episodic memory.
Not only do these sites provide fantastic, innovative ways to have a two-way relationship and support creators at an uncertain time for the entertainment industry, but it’s also a way to stay positively engaged with the pastimes that bring us joy.