Musicians struggle with lockdown
MANILA, Philippines — The stereotype of a struggling artist is becoming all too depressingly real.
With events canceled, social gatherings prohibited and fans restricted to their homes amid the rise of infections from the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), many musicians as well as the ecosystem of creative and services people behind putting up shows have little to no new income for at least a month.
Percussionist Arwin Nava of Radioactive Sago Project told the Inquirer that he was lucky to have at least some savings, but expressed concern that it might be depleted if the Luzon-wide lockdown would be in place for too long.
Nava said a number of corporate events—a big money earner for professional musicians—were canceled even before the quarantine, as well as two shows.
There is also no revenue coming in from his Nava Custom business of customized snare drums, as the drummers who order from him are themselves out of work.
“[W]ith the cancellations, one would hope to be spared as well from paying the bills,” Nava said.
Nicole Tejedor of the AMP Big Band, who also plays saxophone for Glass Onion, said she and her bandmates were fortunate that despite their canceled gigs, they continued to receive allowances from band leader Tonyboy Cojuangco Jr. — a relief to those who depend only on Glass Onion gigs.
Tejedor also thanked her lucky stars that she had saved a big part of what she earned.
“My plan now is to save, and to give sax lessons online,” she said.
Saxophonist Michael Guevarra, also of the AMP Big Band and in-demand session musician, counted five lost gigs that would have brought in at least P60,000.
Fortunately, he still had some receivables from previous events and would earn from pending jobs to arrange music.
“I’ve saved a little and I was used to having little work,” said Guevarra, also a lecturer at the University of the Philippines’ College of Music.
He is more concerned about the “pwesto” musicians, or those who play every night in bars, lounges and hotels, now that these establishments are closed indefinitely.
Then there are the roadies, on whom vocalists and bands depend during shows. They take care, for instance, of the instruments and help set them up before a performance.
Like their principals, they have no choice but to live off their savings in the meantime.
Loki Yamat, roadie for Brass Pas Pas Pas Pas, Unique, Stickfiggas and Four Corners, said the roadie community was anxious since most were on a “no work, no pay” scheme.
“We understand the situation because you may become infected or you may infect others,” he said. “But many roadies were really affected. As for me, I lost about P30,000 worth of gigs. Good thing, I have backup savings [for this] situation and my wife understands.”
Bing Austria shared the sentiment. “The most important thing is you do not get the coronavirus,” said the Flipping Soul Stompers frontman.
Time ‘to create’
Classical singer Lara Maigue is likewise hit hard by the cancellations of shows. Late payments of prior gigs became a blessing.
She said she would focus her time on learning new classical pieces, writing and recording songs and sharing them online.
“Hoping to come out stronger after this,” said Maigue.
Singer-songwriter Nicole Asensio is also sanguine about the quarantine’s outcome. She sees this period as a time “to create” and to drive home the lessons from this episode.
“It’s really important to work hard while the times are good,” said Asensio.
“Right now, we just have to keep the faith. It’s painful but it will be all right in time,” she said.
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