It’s time for “Music’s biggest night,” and the arrival of the 63rd Grammys comes at a crossroads created by the worldwide pandemic.
The usual drama surrounds the event. The Weeknd and Beyonce are both involved in snubs of the show, diminishing the star power of the broadcast, and other artists no doubt are making life difficult for show producers working under difficult constraints in the pandemic age.
The good news of the moment is that In 2020, the Recording Industry Assn. of America said United States recorded music revenues grew 8.9% to $8.0 billion. Worldwide, those figures are more than doubled, hitting an estimated $20.2 billion, per the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry,
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But RIAA Chairman/CEO Mitch Glazier acknowledged the pain amid the growth.
“In 2020 we grieved epochal losses of giants from every corner of our industry — from Charley Pride to Chynna, Eddie Van Halen to John Prine, Bonnie Pointer to Little Richard, and many, many more. We have endured — and continue to endure — a cruel virus that has seared through communities worldwide. Lives have been lost, leaving isolation, grief, and emptiness in their wake. Economies reeled from a global shutdown crisis that hammered music along with virtually every business and community.”
That cuts to the bad news. Music professionals ranging from touring musicians to road crews to supporting businesses like catering, trucking, and promotion all were basically out of work in 2020, and few have returned in 2021.
This week marked the point where venues across the country closed. To note the somber occasion, The Save Our Stages “One Year Dark” marquee and aligned social media campaign will be out to reflect on this unfortunate anniversary.
Independent music venues across the country will be putting up similar messaging on their marquees, such as “One Year Dark” and “No Shows Since 3/13/20,” in recognition of one year being shuttered due to COVID-19. The official hashtags include #oneyeardark. #saveourstages.
What that means is pain for the families affected by the shutdown. Many of the venues may never reopen, limiting opportunities for thousands of artists and putting many support crews in dire financial straits. It’s the hidden cost of the pandemic on the arts, as the lost year and probably permanent shuttering damage the roots of the music tree.
So, enjoy this week’s Grammys. The show itself is being staged with unheard-of precautions, separating stages and having a virtual press room for those writing about the show. It may be the last time such precautions are needed, as there are green shoots on the horizon. Planning is underway for concerts in the late summer and early fall, and club shows will gradually open up with limited capacity as soon as this month.
But until every sector of the business is thriving once again and going to a show is something that is simply a matter of procuring the tickets, it will be hard to care who shows up on the stage on music’s biggest night. Just as important are the people who work the side of the stages across the world, and they’re hurting.