Art in the Time of COVID-19: A Proglodytes Manifesto

“In strange and uncertain times, such as we are living through, on occasion a reasonable person might despair.

But Hope is unreasonable.

And Love is greater even than this.” — Robert Fripp

Each of us have spheres of responsibility: we must take care of ourselves, our families, our friends, or those in our local community. In 2016, when I started this website with my brother, I had community in mind. I wanted to connect with other fans of music that I liked, and I wanted to promote artists that I thought deserved a closer look. 4 years, hundreds of thousands of views, and hundreds of blog posts later, all I really care about is using this platform to help artists that are creating new and innovative music. That’s why I don’t publish negative reviews or interviews with artists I can’t stand. It takes courage and bravery to be a musician in 2020, despite the many risks associated with that choice. Society is better because people choose that path, despite the certainty that it will be a tougher road in many ways.

There are very concrete ways we can help during this time- we can practice social distancing, we can wash our hands, we can do everything the CDC is asking us to do. We can call our neighbors, FaceTime our parents, buy groceries for folks in need, buy local, etc. These are all really tangible ways we can help.

Helping artists feels less tangible, despite the fact that it is a very direct way for most of the lesser known artists we love. When we think about the financial realities musicians and artists face, it’s sometimes hard to conceptualize, probably because often times, we don’t know the artists we love personally. Yet we enjoy their art- their art carries us through good times and comforts us in tough times. Part of the distance that we have with artists is good. We can enjoy their art without forcing them to “pretend a stranger is a long awaited friend”, as the Professor said so eloquently many years ago. However, the distance might also blind us from the financial realities of being an artist in 2020. It is a tough time.

I hope that, when people heard that Devin Townsend (when all is said and done) makes about $60,000 a year, they were surprised. And this is Devin Townsend we’re talking about- an artist who’s been at it for 3 decades, and has headlined festivals and sold millions of records. Now that you know that, think about the independent artists or small label artists you know. Or think about those that make ends meet through touring. Apart from the well known physical damage and emotional damage that the virus is causing folks who are catching it, it is also going to make it terribly hard for artists to make ends meet. It was already hard- the cancellations have made it much more so.

If their music has ever mattered to you, now is a great time to show them thanks (provided that you have the cash to spare- I know we’re all struggling). As I type this, Bandcamp is waiving their fee for artists so that artists get 100% of the cut, so if you’d like to go to Bandcamp right now and buy from artists directly, I highly encourage it.

I am going to start publishing interviews with artists and creators in the coming weeks. While I’ve tried to limit interviews to music that fits somewhere within the progressive spectrum, I am opening the parameters a bit so that I can find ways to support friends and bands that need some exposure. If you’re a professional musician and you’re worried about how this virus will affect you, an interview is the least I can do. E-mail me at proglodytesmusic@gmail.com and I can work up 6-10 questions for you to answer, and I’ll post it here on the page.

All of us feel really uncertain right now, and it’s really stressful to think about the coming months. So, let’s think about it one day at a time, and find ways that we can help within our own spheres of influence. We’ll all get through this, somehow. 

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