In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, “don’t show up” and “don’t come out” are essential words to live by, now more than ever. However, preserving the safety of our communities has come at great costs for the majority of the world. The impacts of the pandemic are especially noticeable in the music industry, where recording, press, promo and touring are planned years in advance. Music festivals such as Coachella, Governors Ball and Glastonbury have been postponed or even cancelled. Smaller artists are left without income from shows or even streaming. Countless artists have postponed or cancelled their tours, leaving thousands of musicians, dancers, managers, technicians and venue workers unemployed.
A common hope in the music community was that people in quarantine would stream more music, in turn providing more income for artists. Unfortunately, this did not end up being the case. According to Rolling Stone, music streams dropped by 7.6 percent within the first week of quarantine (March 13-19). Even blockbuster albums by The Weeknd and Dua Lipa containing smash hit singles “Blinding Lights” and “Don’t Start Now,” respectively, pulled unimpressive streaming numbers in their opening weeks. Music sales overall also reached an all-time low in the U.S. during the first week of quarantine. Overall album sales dropped by 29 percent, and CD and vinyl record album sales fell below 1 million for the first time in Billboard history.
Despite all of the negative impacts the coronavirus has had on the music industry, there has been one silver lining. Many artists have taken to social media platforms and late night shows (via livestream from their homes) to perform and interact with their fans. Prominently, Grammy and Oscar winning artist Lady Gaga has taken unprecedented measures towards helping defeat the coronavirus outbreak.
The “Shallow” singer faced backlash for delaying the release of her album Chromatica only weeks before its intended April 10 release. Many fans and critics alike saw the indefinite delay as an attempt to save the album from low sales and streams. However, this proved to be untrue when Gaga announced her working partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) to help raise money and provide aid to those in need worldwide. Instead of promoting her album, she began calling on corporate leaders from around the globe to donate money to WHO and necessary health equipment to communities in need. Within a week, she helped raise 35 million dollars for the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, donated by 68 corporations around the globe.
In a WHO press conference, Gaga announced that she would be organizing a global broadcast to “celebrate and highlight the singular kind global community and celebrate the power of the human spirit.” Later that day, they announced the One World: Together at Home event, created by Global Citizen and WHO in collaboration with Lady Gaga. Dozens of musical artists, comedians and celebrities will be making appearances in the day-long event on April 18. Despite Gaga’s significant fundraising efforts, she has stated on Twitter that the broadcast is not a fundraiser. She, alongside her partners at Global Citizen, will continue to fundraise privately so the broadcast can simply be a celebration of hope in such a dark time. More information about the One World: Together at Home broadcast can be found at https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/connect/togetherathome/.
No one quite knows when or how the pandemic will end. All that we can do is stay clean, stay home if possible and help those in our community. Countless tours will be rescheduled and music sales and streaming will rise again once people are able to socialize and shop. With the help of consumers and artists like Gaga, the music industry will bounce back stronger than ever.
Julian Galkin ’22