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Why Live Music Matters

Toronto's Legendary Rivoli Theatre. Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

By: Jay Broderick

The Covid-19 pandemic changed our live as we know it. With lockdowns, mandates, travel restrictions, worldwide supply chain issues, and insane inflation, we are unlikely to ever go back to the way things were. While restaurants were hit extremely hard, they were still able to manage some semblance of income as they were able to maintain their takeout business, and here in Ontario, laws were passed to even allow the sale of alcohol with your takeout meal.

Now, I don't want to make it sound like these businesses weren't affected by the sickness. In fact, many small businesses were simply unable to stay afloat, and many were forced to close permanently. A very sad outcome. However, there is one industry that had it a tad worse in my opinion. And that was the music industry.

The phrase "Starving Artist" is as real as any phrase that may pop into your mind, even on the best of days. It's a daily struggle for many of the musicians who's place on this earth is to bring us the joys of music. Add on top of this a global pandemic, and well, how does one survive? And it doesn't stop at the artists. What of the promoters that bring these shows to our cities? What of the bars, music halls, and other venues that host these events?


So why does music matter? Music has been around for millennia. Archeologists have discovered musical instruments that date back to Paleolithic eras. It's practically as old as man himself. Clearly, there is a connection between humanity and the sounds of a whistling instrument, the beating of a percussion device, or the screaming of the more modern (in relative terms of time) electric guitar.

Music has the ability to arouse in us, emotions we possibly didn't even know we had. Ever get chills listening to the drum breakdown by Phil Collins' in "In the Air Tonight"? That's a real reaction. Ever feel the happy memories that a song brings you, as it transports you back in time to your youth? We often know the exact place we were when we first heard it. It reminds us of our first loves, and the friends we hung around with.

Many times, a song can bring us to tears as we recall a moment in our lives about a loved one who has since passed on, or the dreaded reminders of a love that wasn't meant to be. Music can be a release mechanism when we are feeling frustrated or even angry. It can bring us calm, peace, and serenity when we are feeling alone or anxiety ridden. It can make us smile and get up and dance when we're in a bad mood.

A happy fan at the 2022 George St. Festival in St. John's, NL - photo credit: Jay Broderick


So why does live music matter you may ask? I mean, I can just throw on a record at home and get all these same emotions! Yes, this is 100% accurate. The reality however, is that musicians make very little revenue on recorded music, especially in this, the digital age. Most of us will just stream from youtube. And even if you pay for a streaming service like Spotify, the royalties to the artists are literally just pennies... and we don't even have pennies here in Canada which makes it less than nothing.

There is some light here with vinyl and CD sales having substantially increased over the past couple years, but the fact is, musicians rely on touring as their bread and butter. And ultimately, at the end of the day, nobody can afford to work for free.

Then there is the interaction between band and audience. This is what musicians are in this line of work for. Their love of playing in front of a live crowd is immeasurable, but let us focus on you, the fans. Personally, I cannot describe the feeling of being present at a live music event. Whether you are sitting in a smokey piano bar, at a local bar with a live band, at a small 500 capacity club, at a larger 2000 capacity music hall, or at a 20,000 seat stadium. The mental health benefits are countless. If you want to just stand back and soak in the sounds, that's great! If you want to dance in your seat, that's just as wonderful. And if you want to mosh in the pit, then you're on top of the world. It's just damned simple fun.

The crowd at an Archspire show in Toronto. If this isn't happiness, well... Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

Now that things are opened up again, rising inflation has forced many bands to cancel shows to prevent financial losses on the road. Australian rock band Airbourne had to cancel some European shows towards the end of 2022 due to rising costs and a weak Australian dollar.

At this point in time, perhaps more than ever, the musicians that bring us these musical escapes, the promoters that bring them to our cities, and the venues that host them, need our support. And I'd even wager that most of us need the break from our own lives, and an insane world. Money is tight for many, and concert costs are rising, but it's an expense well worth it's weight in gold. Hell, checking out a local band at the bar on the corner will typically only cost you a beer or 2. What's better than this? The value is exponential! I have been fortunate to attend a lot of shows over the past year, and the smiles I see from the fans before, during and after every event I have been to is infectious, if even only until the ride home and back to reality.

Why does live music matter? Because, life! It's too damned short to not enjoy it.

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Seunghyun Song
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