Musicians in a Time of Trouble

My sister, who is far more pragmatic than I, told me of the plight of a friend’s daughter. The young woman has received a graduate degree in liturgical music. Yes, as in playing organ and suchlike in places of worship. In the best of times that can’t be something where there is a whole lot of demand. In these times when there is but a slow return to churches and non-trivial concern regarding the spread of projected droplets from those who are lustily singing, finding a paying gig (she didn’t undertake those studies purely out of an interest in the subject; this was/is intended to be a career) is something that escapes her right now. She is working at a daycare center. Not as a musician.

While I am certainly sympathetic to her plight, I, unlike my sister, am glad that there are people who are studying things that don’t necessarily have an ostensible direct connection to a career. One could—and I will—make the argument that if we have learned anything over the past three-plus years is that we could probably use more poets and fewer politicians, more musicians and fewer cable blowhards.


My niece, my sister’s daughter, entered the conversation. She quipped that Yo-Yo Ma recently had a live-streamed concert that was viewed by people who bought “tickets” to the performance. Cellists who aren’t Yo-You Ma or who are liturgical musicians would undoubtedly have a problem getting on a streaming platform like IDAGIO, which has an extensive suite of classical music performances lined up for its members to purchase. But for those classical musicians who have made it onto the platform, I couldn’t be happier because we need them, too.

Do you think that rock musicians have it tough? Consider this, according to Classical Music Rising, which describes itself as “a collaborative project of leading classical stations to shape the future of classical music radio as the field confronts evolution in delivery across multiple broadcast and digital platforms, demographic and cultural change, and significant disruption throughout the music industry,” the entire state of California has three classical music stations. Three. New York State: four. Plenty of states: zero. And were it not for pubic radio stations that have some classical music programming, the availability of hearing a bit of Beethoven would be non-existent for terrestrial broadcast listeners.

(My niece, incidentally, recently obtained her degree in instructional design and the company that she had been interning at, which she had intended to be employed by, one day folded up its tent and pretty much disappeared, leaving another large bit of commercial real estate full of pods, a contemporary version of Roanoke Island in the 16th century: seems like even the churches of commerce are taking it hard, as well. Had she gotten an art history degree she’d probably be in the same position she is right now: unemployed.)


The National Basketball Association, which has more money than, say, the Rolling Stones, has partnered with Microsoft on an approach to providing basketball fans with the opportunity to not only watch playoff games, but to digitally be in the stands.

The experience is based on the Microsoft Teams platform, using its Together mode: participants are shown on a shared background. While other sports organizations—the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball—are putting fans in the seats via cardboard cutouts, the NBA/Microsoft approach allows the lucky participants (lucky because there is a promotion involved to win a seat) to be seen and actually communicate with others.

Would this work for concerts? Well, maybe not Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach. But would it be more appealing to see your favorite group while in the digital proximity of others from whom you are socially distanced? Would you find the experience more fulfilling than, say, watching a non-live-streamed concert on YouTube? Would you dance in your seat? Would you sing along? Would you be shushed by the person in the seat next to you?


Speaking of the Rolling Stones, on September 9 the band is “opening a world-first flagship store on London’s Carnaby Street!” I like the exclamation point. It is named “RS No. 9.” And more than being just a store, it “will be a fully immersive experience for fans of all ages.”

This presumably means that there will be lots of pictures and videos and alleged authentic memorabilia (e.g., “Head scarf worn by Keith Richards during part of the Steel Wheels tours”). It will also be jammed with more Stones-branded stuff than Mickey Mouse logos in The World of Disney store in Orlando.

Here’s hoping that RS No. 9 hires a whole lot of people because it is hard to justify the existence of that place otherwise.

Even without touring, one suspects that Mick and the boys don’t need to collect the fees from logo licenses.

I wonder if Yo-Yo Ma has gear.

One thought on “Musicians in a Time of Trouble”

  1. I would happily forego a live concert if I could get merch without the long lines. But seriously, why not stream a recording or practice session (for a price)? Musicians are seemingly the last ones to cash in on virtuality.

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