Bands of pressure
DECCAN CHRONICLE | Swati Sharma
When singer Justin Bieber announced that he was cancelling his Justice World Tour, which included dates in France, Poland, Australia, and New Zealand due to facial paralysis brought on by Ramsay Hunt Syndrome (RHS), fans were dismayed. Bieber wasn’t the only one. Celine Dion's 2023 world tour has been cancelled due to a rare neurological disorder, and Bruce Springsteen's scheduled performance in Albany has been cancelled due to illness, crushing months of diligent preparation, disappointing fans, and tens of millions of dollars in ticket sales. A number of major international music performances, including Shakira, Adele, Lady Gaga, and the E Street Band, have been postponed or cancelled entirely, citing mental health concerns, complete burnout, or rising staff and material costs combined with a drop in ticket sales.
This has been a rough time for live music in recent years. Great musicians may appear superhuman as they perform dozens of gigs in a few days and even embark on week-long tours. However, the strenuous schedule can wear them down. The cancellation of musicians’ world tours echoes the growing mental health movement to put the brakes on when an artiste is having trouble. Experts say musicians are now seeking help for performance-related stress, worry, and anxiety after a protracted period of relative inactivity during the pandemic.
The pandemic had a devastating impact on the live music scene, according to singer-songwriter Vishwadeep. As a result, it will take more time and effort to return to normalcy. "Additionally, the lack of work during and after the pandemic contributed to a great deal of mental stress for artistes and other freelance professionals. Traveling for back-to-back shows, spending days practising, and then performing live for long hours nonstop exhausts the artistes," says Vishwadeep.
Musicians are opening up more about their health problems as a result of rigours of their line of work. To make up for lost time, touring and promotion schedules have been accelerated because the music industry must recover from the pandemic effects.
"With regular gigs comes commitment, which is necessary for band formation. The pressure we experience every moment is caused by the complexity of things that may appear simple to the outside world. It is easier said than done to remain calm under pressure. Prior to the pandemic, cancellations and going without gigs wasn't easy to digest; it has only gotten harder since the pandemic," says singer-songwriter Aanchal Shrivastava.
Aanchal says that because many musicians are constantly insecure about their positions, a minor error in their work or release could allow a rival to capitalise. "With music and performance, we need to keep improving," she notes.
VARIETY OF EXPENSES
Organizing concerts is both physically and mentally demanding, and doing so for months at a time has never been easy. The pandemic exacerbated these pressures. "Whether we like it or not, live entertainment is the most important source of income. The urge stems from a variety of factors, including the high we get from live audience reactions, hoots, and tears, as well as the money we make, which exceeds any streaming or dubbing fee we can charge. It takes days to connect and coordinate for even one small gig. If the performance is cancelled, an artist suffers," adds Aanchal, adding, "working on our own projects calls for a variety of expenses."
"Music gives us freedom, freedom from routine, freedom from the rules imposed by society and the system. However, it is not an easy path to pursue; we must choose between a normal life in which we work and earn a living, and expressing ourselves through music and reflecting society. The latter doesn't pay the bills. We struggle to settle down in life because we have to deal with the pressure that comes with financial stress," says AaGROH Abhishek, an Indie artist.
Since live performances are the cornerstone of a musician’s career, the Covid-19 period was tough for musicians, says Lakshay Mohan, who together with his brother Ayush make the duo known as ‘Mohan Brothers’, the first Indians to be invited to perform at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles in 2015.
"Since Covid, there have been more live performances, and everyone has realised that the experience of hearing music live has no parallel. People used to enjoy listening to music online during the pandemic, but that is no longer a desirable option. As a result, live performances have increased," he says. "Doing back-to-back concerts is extremely demanding and exhausting, not only physically but also mentally. A musician, in my opinion, should not have more than 10 concerts per month," adds Aayush Mohan.
Santigold, a US musician, issued a lengthy statement on social media announcing the cancellation of her Holified tour. "As a touring musician, I don’t think anyone anticipated the new reality that awaited us [after the pandemic]," she wrote, citing two years without pay, soaring travel and lodging costs. Prices are growing, but artist fees are not keeping up, making it harder than ever to sell tickets to regular performances. Many fans are unwilling to return to the crowd, while others are dealing with a cost-of-living crisis.
One of Akshay Kumar’s US events was totally sold out, but another had to be postponed because of low turnout. The actor was scheduled to give a performance at the Cure Insurance Arena in New Jersey on March 4. Almost nobody showed up to buy tickets for the show, which was also to feature Nora Fatehi, Mouni Roy, Disha Patani, Stebin Ben, Jasleen Royal, and Aparshakti Khurana. The show's organizer, Amit Jaitly, issued an apology for the cancellation in a Facebook post and promised to refund the money to ticket buyers.
Similarly, actor-singer Farhan Akhtar recently had to cancel the FarhanLive concert in Australia. "To my Australian fans, our band FarhanLive has had to cancel our Australia Tour due to unforeseen circumstances. We will be unable to travel to Sydney or Melbourne," he wrote.
* Bruce Springsteen’s scheduled performance Tuesday in Albany has been cancelled due to illness
* Celine Dion reveals rare neurological disorder diagnosis, cancels 2023 tour in emotional video
* Following health concerns, Justin Bieber has cancelled all remaining dates on his Justice world tour. The 29-year-old singer had postponed the tour several times, telling fans last summer that he had facial paralysis due to Ramsay Hunt syndrome (RHS).
* Farhan Akhtar cancelled his concerts in Sydney and Melbourne due to "unforeseen circumstances."
* Tove Styrke announced on January 26 that due to "logistical issues, as well as escalating touring costs," she was forced to cancel her North American tour in March.