Quarantine Blues and How Help Struggling Artists

My MK5 GTI living its best life as a fun AND practical car.
My MK5 GTI living its best life as a fun AND practical car.

The first two and a half months of 2020 were about as good as life has ever been for me. I drove almost 10,000 miles, played over 20 shows across a healthy sliver of the Continental United States and was gearing up for what was slated to be the busiest and most profitable summer of my young life.

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I spent the first two weeks of the year on tour with a punk band serving as both guitarist and chauffeur from Detroit to New Orleans and most places in-between.

The Montana enjoying what is probably the only time it has ever been parked inside a garage.
The Montana enjoying what is probably the only time it has ever been parked inside a garage.
Photo: Matthew Keyser
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The Pontiac Montana minivan purchased specifically for this trip stunningly didn’t miss a beat, delivering us to every house show, bar, record shop, laundromat/bar hybrid, and bowling alley we had booked on this misadventure.

We arrived back home in Indiana the day before my main band, a psychedelic rock/fusion group called Porch Kat, began a string of shows that helped us make important connections and break into more venues.

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We were booking shows left and right, but by mid-March it became apparent that all of our upcoming events were going to be postponed or cancelled altogether.

Big bends on my favorite Les Paul
Big bends on my favorite Les Paul
Photo: Michael Cottone
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I’m now well into my second month of isolation, and while my cat is very pleased that I’m home so much, I’m left to ponder the same feelings I know millions around the world are also nursing at this time. An uncertainty of the future. Many questions with no real answers. Will things ever go back to the way they were? Should they? Only time will tell.

What is evident to me now is that we really can’t do anything but live in the moment, make the most of the time we have, and try to help out our fellow man if they struggle along the way.

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Just down the road from me in Fort Wayne, Indiana a car collector sold off a portion of his collection to raise almost a million dollars that he put directly into small businesses effected by the shutdown.

View this post on Instagram Thanks to the incredible generosity of the automotive community (and a collector who shocked us by offering more than DOUBLE what we were asking for a car), we have reached nearly $1 million in raised funds for the Fort Wayne community. We cannot emphasize enough how incredibly grateful we are for all those that stepped up during this time to help make a difference. Thank you to everyone for your help, whether you bought a car, shared and liked our posts, or reached out to us to say hello.
A post shared by Ash Crest Collection (@ashcrestcollection) on Apr 12, 2020 at 5:33pm PDT

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We are all currently living through some really crazy times, at a scale that no person alive has ever seen, and through it all I really hope to see this trend continue. An increased sense of community and brotherhood among all people. Those in a position to help lending a hand, and everyone else doing our best to stay out of their way until this all slows down.

Then my mind casts back to all the people I met out on the road a couple weeks ago, all of them in the same position as me, many of them with much more at stake. Where do we all go from here?

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Online appears to be the best, most obvious answer. While COVID-19 has certainly squashed in person events, we are better equipped to handle isolation today than ever before thanks to the wonders of technology. Hell, even NASCAR is doing iRacing now.

Most artists, including myself, have been using this time to create new content in the hopes that people will use some of their new-found free time to explore new music. It’s like my old guitar instructor used to say, “There are only two kinds of people in this world: Those who make music and those who listen to it.”

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An actual screenshot of my revenue per stream on Spotify.
An actual screenshot of my revenue per stream on Spotify.

If you already have a lesser-known or local artist that you know you like, be sure to watch their social media for any live streams or new content they might be putting out to continue supporting them through this time. If you’re in the position you might even consider purchasing merchandise or a physical copy of their art.

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As for finding new smaller artists, there are many resources but probably the best for music would be Bandcamp.

While most established groups are on major streaming platforms, their algorithms make it very hard to actually make any money, especially for smaller artists.

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Bandcamp allows the artist to publish their music directly rather than using a distributor, and allows them to set their own price on their music, or set it so people can pay as much or as little as they want. Their genre tagging system also makes it easy to find underground artists making the kind of music you like.

My friend and bassist/lead singer tuning up before one of our last gigs in “the before time.”
My friend and bassist/lead singer tuning up before one of our last gigs in “the before time.”
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In conclusion: Support local businesses, artists and people in general if you are able to, stay home unless you HAVE to be elsewhere, stay safe and healthy and maybe we’ll all come out the other end of this thing having learned something, and be better off because of it.

If you have any favorite smaller or local artists of any medium that you know could use some love, share them in the comments down below.

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P.S. I promise my next post will be all about cars.

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