Future Nostalgia? Hollywood’s Bleeding? Folklore? Let’s be honest, one of those albums got you through lockdown last year. For me, it was ‘Ripples in the Sea’, my first single, which I released during the second lockdown in 2020. After that, it was ‘Evergreen’, which I released in the fourth lockdown. Creative expression was my pathway to sanity during lockdown, but as a result, it became a running gag that my music would never quite be ‘out and about’. Here, in Tāmaki Makaurau, we’ve got a whole crowd of musicians feeling the same way.
Lockdown has given us all time to reflect, ponder, procrastinate, and dive deeper – perhaps more than we would have liked – into our thoughts and feelings. It has meant that for musicians, we’ve spent a colossal amount of time writing and crafting music, but the frugal number of gigs that have been available over the past year have devastated us as a community.
Personally, I spent most of last year in my first-year hall sourcing writing material and putting music together. I willingly allowed themes of my LBGTQ identity, self growth and, god forbid, floorcest romances to manifest into lyrics of their own. I learned to produce music through Zoom lectures, how to market music through YouTube and when the time was right, I had a crack at releasing my first single. It was creative liberation like no other, and I was hooked. I returned to my hometown in the summer, found more scandalous material to write about and announced the release date two weeks prior. Two days into the fourth lockdown, I released that second single.
However, no one has heard either of those singles live, yet.
The truth in the gigging industry is that for the bands and performers you see in bars, cafes, festivals and concerts, they are not performing purely because they ‘sound’ good; it is because they have made significant connections to the people who give them a platform to ‘sound’ good on. However, for the newest influx of music students and musicians in Tāmaki Makaurau, like myself, there are very limited ways to create interpersonal links to industry veterans due to the yoyo that is alert levels. Music networking is showing up to someone else’s show and tagging them in your Instagram photo, or buying the singer at Danny Doolans a jager bomb, or dropping a tenner for the busker at a local market. It’s a lot more about social interaction and spinning yarns than you would expect. It has to be, because if a musician can’t charm you into a gig, they probably can’t charm you on stage.
It’s not just the veterans that we’ve missed out on though; it’s the musicians just like us. It’s the other students and musicians who sit with us in this next wave of NZ music. It’s not just the upstate culture we’re missing out on. It’s the friends too, and as I pointed out before, friends are a very handy thing to have in the music industry.
Personally, my goal as a musician is to eventually hold a record label that ensures the safety, rights and freedoms of its artists. After all, musicians are much more vulnerable than the public is aware of. Beneath the gloss of tours, Spotify tracks and Instagram fame are central powers whom artists are forced to rely on, because no young artist has the finance or knowledge to independently do their own writing, production and marketing – at least not to a point of being on the Top 40 Singles Chart. Therefore, the amount of reliance artists have on wealthy record labels is enormous, and is a breeding ground for exploitation. My ultimate goal is to create an ethical representation of the New Zealand music industry through my record label. It is not just a musical endeavour, but one involving rights, freedoms and equality. I am fiercely committed to making this dream a reality, hence why the lack of networking and gigging opportunities during COVID-19 restrictions gave way to much personal disappointment.
Overall, the music industry is a bit like University: it looks one way from the outside, but is a whole new ballgame once you’re in it. You couldn’t correctly quantify all of the comfort, happiness and Tiktok trends that musicians provided for us during the pandemic, but you’d also never believe the tragic effects it has had on our gigging and performing industry.
My only hope is that you’ll be able to hear my new music live eventually, but in the meantime, thank god for the internet.