Music 04.12.20

Locked Down and...Learning?

What matters to us most in life? What do we actually want to do with our free time? What kind of balance do we want in our everyday lives? Whilst lockdowns have clearly robbed us of a great deal this year, there’s evidence to suggest there’s been a positive rethinking of our values.

What matters to us most in life? What do we actually want to do with our free time? What kind of balance do we want in our everyday lives? Whilst lockdowns have clearly robbed us of a great deal this year, there’s evidence to suggest there’s been a positive rethinking of our values.

Many of us harbor desires to take up hobbies and search for creative outlets, but never get around to it. Whilst intentions bubble under the surface, barriers pop up - spending money on other things, lacking confidence or simply not having the time.

Six months of lockdowns and restrictions have changed this fundamentally. With yawning blank spaces in our diaries and an unprecedented lack of options, we’re looking for different types of experiences to fill the unfamiliar free time. There’s only so many hours you can spend indecisively trawling Netflix before giving up and settling on the familiar warmth of Friends, Peep Show, Alan Partridge, [Insert favourite comedy]…

Could I BE any more stressed out?

In a bid to derive a bit more satisfaction and value from this free time, thousands are turning to music.

Creativity is an inherent part of being human and it can have profound positive effects on our mental health and wellbeing - providing much-needed sanctuary in times of collective anxiety.

In Plato’s ‘Republic’, the philosopher says, “musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul.” During this crisis, it’s no surprise that we’re turning to the deeper promises of satisfaction, relaxation and fulfilment offered by music.

“Look at this dope ukulele I bought during lockdown” – Plato, The Republic

What does this exploration and reconnection with music look like in the lockdown age? And how are the effects rippling through the world of music?

Taking the leap

One simple effect is that many more people are taking the leap and buying musical instruments. Sales have boomed since the crisis hit in March, with leading retailer Gear4music seeing total sales rise by 42% to £70.2 million in the six months to 30th September. Gear4music also saw its share price triple, whilst similar fortunes have been granted to Focusrite whose stock price has increased more than 75 per cent since the start of April.

Entry-level guitars and pianos are the obvious choice for many, conjuring memories of school lessons perhaps or those youthful dreams of musical stardom. With Christmas approaching and following a second UK lockdown, sales are expected to see another bump throughout the rest of the year.

The rise of the autodidact

The internet has of course opened up a vista of opportunities for self-teaching, with vast amounts of online learning materials available, from YouTube tutorials to guitar tabs of your favourite tunes, the value of which is plain for all to see in times of isolation. But once your fingertips are raw and you’ve butchered Wonderwall for the 50th time, it can be tempting to lock the guitar away and forget the whole thing ever happened, or worse still, smash the damn thing to bits.

This is where clever ways to engage communities during lockdown come in, like Fender Play. Its comprehensive app aims to keep beginners playing and gradually progressing with easy-to-follow video guides and song breakdowns to ease the frustrations of learning. They’re even offering three free months of tuition and 10% off guitars in another savvy lockdown move. Gibson Guitars also offered a similar programme of lessons during the first lockdown.

Ukulele lessons too? Someone tell Plato!

It’s not all solo learning though - singer-songwriter Laura Marling took to Instagram to record tutorial videos for her fans earlier this year, whilst indie band The Big Moon charged fans for similar tutorials to help them survive the first lockdown.

Lockdowns have clearly brought an increased appetite for learning coupled with a desire to share knowledge and engage with the ever-growing musical community.

Bedroom pop

Whilst we’re seeing beginners take their first steps into music by picking up their first guitars or pianos, more accomplished musicians have been advancing their skills and creativity further via home recording setups.

Focusrite’s chief exec Tim Carroll highlights this, citing Billie Eilish and the album she recorded in her brother’s bedroom for a “renaissance in home recording”, which has subsequently been accelerated even more because of the pandemic.

With musicians and fans deprived of the typical connections they thrive on at live gigs, the boom in home recording is allowing for improvised engagement with fans through surprise lockdown albums and live stream gigs - all of which have a major part to play in the music over the coming months.

2021 and beyond...

Throughout the pandemic, connection, rediscovery and personal fulfilment have been recurring themes. And for music retailers, that can only spell good news. Despite brick and mortar stores spending much of the year closed, profits and sales are up, and we can see clear opportunities for growth in areas such as online learning and streaming.

Perhaps most crucially of all though, our turn to music seems to speak to our inner desires to connect with creativity and the arts more deeply.

As we head towards 2021, and we increasingly appreciate how music and the arts helped us through the difficulties of isolation and lockdowns, we’ll see the true value they hold in our lives.

And with deeper connection, we’ll have stronger convictions about supporting the areas of the music industry which will suffer in the weeks and months to come.

At Harmonic, I am lucky enough to work with a wide variety of businesses in the music industry; ranging from Record Labels, Artist Management Agencies, fast-growth music technology start-ups to instrument manufacturers and retailers. It is fantastic to see, in a year of doom and gloom, that many music businesses will come through the other side of this and in the process would have played an important part in helping us collectively get through 2020!

If your business is heading into 2021 with plans for growth or if you have any vacancies in your Finance or Royalties department, it would be amazing to hear from you and explain how Harmonic can help you build a great team. You can reach me at ed@harmonicfinance or call me on 0203 773 3530 for a chat!

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