Today, I’m here to remind you of the importance of music in our lives

Most of us are doing our best to heed the advice of government and health authorities to stay at home and maintain a safe distance from others. We’re also trying to support local businesses by getting our meals through takeout or delivery services, purchasing only what we need at grocery and drugstores, and perhaps buying gift certificates for personal services such as hairdressers, barbers, tattoo artists, manicurists, personal trainers, etc. (if you haven’t thought about doing that, maybe you should).

But did you ever stop to think about this pandemic’s effect on the music industry? I’m not just talking about how concerts have been cancelled or postponed. I mean, that’s bad enough! In that sector alone, there’s an entire workforce out there—musicians, tour managers, technicians, sound and light crews, ticket sellers, promoters, production managers, venue operators, security officers, door personnel, bartenders, servers, merch sellers, etc.—all out of work right now. You think music is simply a luxury and not all that important in the grand scheme of things? Think again. Music heals the soul, and it’s the lifeblood of many people I know. So how can you help?

Here are a few suggestions on how to support the industry and partake in a little aural soul food while you’re at it...

1. Don’t return your concert tickets yet if you can afford to hold out

Seriously. If you’ve purchased a ticket to a show that’s not happening right now, especially if a local promoter is presenting it, just hold onto it. If the performance has been cancelled outright, and the promoter is allowing refunds right now, then seek it out if you must. However, the majority of tours have been postponed or suspended, and those tickets will be honoured when the date has been rescheduled.

2. Support a local record shop

While brick-and-mortar stores have closed their doors for the time being, a great deal of them are providing online sales. If you’re a regular customer at any of VanCity’s independent record retailers, do them a favour and give them a call or drop them an email to see if you can order something or get a gift certificate. Heck, do that even if you’re not a regular customer!

Check out Neptoon Records, Vancouver’s oldest independent record store (doing vinyl deliveries, curbside pickup and and mail order), Beat Street Records (offering free local delivery and curbside pickup), and my personal favourite, Scrape Records, Vancouver’s home of all things heavy metal. Not only do they host one of the largest online inventories of hard rock and heavy metal music in North America, they also offer a massive selection of vintage concert and promo posters and cool rarities. Trust me, you need more metal in your life, and they’ll ship anywhere.

3. Learn to play a musical instrument

You’ve got that totally out-of-tune acoustic guitar sitting in your storage closet, don’t you? How about that accordion you talked your parents into purchasing from a door-to-door salesman back in 1974, thinking it was a miniature “sample” organ? (True story. Not mine. Still funny.)

Well, now is the time to dust ’em off and sign up for personal one-on-one instruction via Skype or Facetime. Even though they’re not currently teaching your basic Weird Al accordion skills (perhaps someday), perhaps check out Horizon School of Music for guitar, piano, drums, bass, violin, banjo, or voice lessons. Their mission is “to ensure that everyone receives equal access to experiencing this enriching gift of art regardless of barrier.” Sounds cool, right?

For those of you who are already getting personal lessons from any of our region’s vast array of amazing music teachers, but have had to put them on hold because of what’s going on out there, consider contacting them to see if they’re offering Skype or Facetime instruction (VSO School of Music offers virtual lessons!). If not, I’ll remind you again, buy a gift certificate for future lessons. And don’t forget… practice! You’ve got the time!

4. Order music and merch directly from artist websites

That’s right: CDs, vinyl, T-shirts, whatever. Is your favourite band releasing a new album in the coming months? Consider pre-ordering directly from the artist’s website. There you’ll more than likely find a link providing you with preferred point-of-purchase options, whether it be through third-party distributors like CD Baby, or artist-owned independent sites like Burning Shed.

I can just hear you asking, “Well, Lucy, what have you ordered lately?” Let me tell you, I just recently conceded to dining on KD for the next six months after letting go of a fair portion of my paycheque for Steven Wilson’s limited edition deluxe box set version of his January 2021 release The Future Bites, which describes itself as “an exploration of how the human brain has evolved in the Internet era.” Sure, this purchase amounted to a considerable chunk of change, but it came with a free download of the album’s first incredibly infectious 10-minute single “Personal Shopper” (featuring some guy named Elton John, you may have heard of him, he’s new), which articulates the provocative theme of ridiculous high-end consumerism. And no, the irony is not lost on me, but it’s highly recommended nonetheless.

5. Support artists directly through Bandcamp

Here’s where you can slide some dinero into musicians’ pockets as this site’s interests are aligned with the artists they serve. In other words, they only make money when the musicians make a lot more money. Unlike streaming services that are more than happy to take your subscription fees and offer very little to the musician in return (on average, somewhere between $0.001 and $0.003 per stream), Bandcamp allows artists and labels to set their own pricing parameters. This is also a great place to find rare recordings that you simply can’t pick up at your local mall’s Sunrise. Get over there and search out your favourite band. Need inspiration or one of my own personal recommendations? I thought you’d never ask. Porcupine Tree just recently joined and I’m freaking out over some of their rare live stuff from years gone by.

So, until you see me on the other end of this mess, whether it be at a show or at a record store, you’ll find me here at my keyboard whilst filtering through my own record collection in the background. Stay safe, stay at home, and listen to some music already!