For months, I’ve been terrified of “The Gap” -
that time between the world returning to normal and musicians returning to work.
For the last decade, my husband, Gerald Flemming, and I have toured Canada with our inspirational duo, Infinitely More. Each year, we pack our car with guitars, gear, and CDs to bring live music from St. Catharines, ON, to every corner of the country. We’ve performed thousands of events, recorded 8 studio albums, and racked up a handful of national music awards.
That was, until 2020. We spent our first weeks of lockdown cancelling concerts, including our 10th Anniversary Cross Canada Tour. Lost income, lost creativity, lost community - it broke our hearts.
We pivoted to creating videos and teaching online lessons. We received a Canada Council for the Arts grant to take our 10th Anniversary Tour online. We partnered with the Anglican Diocese of Niagara to create our “Lenten Musical Calendar”. We started to work on our 9th studio album.
We did our best to stay creative and connected.
17 months later, lockdowns are lifting. Vaccinations are happening.
Businesses are reopening. Everyone is excited about the return to normal.
But for musicians, we find ourselves firmly in “The Gap”.
You see, there’s no clear path for a full-time professional musician to “reopen”.
We’re not like other businesses. There won’t be a day when the government announces,
“And today, artists can return to work!”
The pathway to our re-opening is layered and complicated:
We need venues to open, but live music isn’t restricted to clubs and theatres. Thousands of performances happen in churches, parks, libraries, seniors homes, and other community spaces. Most of us can’t make a living until all venues open at full capacity.
Did you know that many concerts at churches, community centres, and even theatres are fully or partially staffed by volunteers? Before they can host a concert, venues will need to recruit volunteers, create a safe work environment, and provide special training for ever-changing restrictions and guidelines.
For a Christian duo like Infinitely More, we need to follow the lead of local churches. Many of them still aren’t gathering in person. Some have lost members and resources along the way. It will take a period of time for them to regroup and settle into a new normal before they can take on an “extra” event like hosting a concert.
Most full-time musicians travel. We need to consider the safety of hotels, planes, public washrooms and dine-in restaurants, in Canada and across the border. Many of us find accommodations with friends, family and billets. How comfortable will any of us feel staying in someone else’s home and eating at their table?
The insecurity of long-range planning is a new issue. Venues of all shapes and sizes had to cancel all their 2020 programming. Many are hesitant to put events on the books until things are easier to predict. As you can imagine, this varies across the country, complicating the already-complicated world of touring.
There’s the issue of money. How will heavy and unpredictable tour finances play out in a post-pandemic economy? Will venues be able to pay fees or guarantee ticket sales? Will audience members have extra cash for tickets or merchandise?
As venues cancelled events last year, many artist bookings were simply deferred to 2021. That means that concert series and other commercial and community venues already have their performers secured for this year, and won't have openings for another full year.
Which leads to the most complicated part of the equation: booking events is a long game.
There’s often a 3-12 month gap between booking a concert and the actual performance. Assuming any of us can get back to our 2019 numbers, both in terms of fees and performance schedule, that still means a 3-12 month gap before we can earn a full-time income.
This is “The Gap” I fear.
And this is “The Gap” where we, and all full-time musicians, now find ourselves.
There are fantastic groups on all levels working to ease this transition, create safe venues, and advocate for financial support. We’re grateful for their commitment.
As things start to open up, there’s a genuine excitement in the air. People are anxious to leave their homes, travel, and attend events. We’re hoping this means full audiences who are eager to buy tickets and CDs.
But the simple truth is this:
Being an artist is hard anytime, and this season has been uniquely difficult.
Every day, social media contains yet another post by a talented musician “announcing” their new career in real estate or bookkeeping. Artists are regularly sharing testimonies of lost creativity and productivity. Our arts community has suffered and is suffering. Many won’t survive. I worry for the career artists who can’t see the next chapter, and the new artists who can’t even write their first page.
Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it’s now going to take a village to reopen the performing arts industry. We’ll need financial support for individuals, venues and organizations. We’ll need a vaccinated country that’s not living in fear of disease. We’ll need committed staff and volunteers who can safely support live performances. And we’ll need artists who are physically, emotionally, psychologically, creatively, and financially healthy.
As artists, all we want to do is make art and share it with the world.
Art is never complete until it’s shared with an audience.
Trust me when I say, we can’t wait to perform for you!
Let’s hope it can happen soon ...
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Want to help Infinitely More in "The Gap"?
Please visit our STORE to purchase music or make a donation.
Please CONTACT us to book live or online concerts, workshops, and worship services.