As the COVID-19 pandemic got worse, the provincial government announced the total closure of live venues and lounges. These restrictions caused deep concern in the community that makes its living from the music industry.
Director of Operations of Sonic Union Records, Lissa LaRocca, says live performances are “essential” for local artists.
“Having live shows is very important in building their (artists’) fan bases locally, for sure,” LaRocca said. “But also in nearby cities like London, Toronto, or the GTA in general.”
LaRocca emphasizes that most of the artists’ income came from live performances. But since most of the live venues in Hamilton had to close due to provincial restrictions, artists had to find other paths to promote their music and build a fanbase.
“Musicians try to do live streams as much as possible or to perform little shows when we are able,” LaRocca said. “The income (from live shows) has not been replaced despite the government’s help for lounges and artists.”
Other artists had to make more radical decisions to generate income from their content. Solo musician Jacob Weil said he travelled several times to the United States to play and promote his music.
“Going to the U.S for me has always been a good option because their restrictions are a bit looser. I’ve been lucky because I’ve had these connections,” he remembered. “And I’ve been able to go down and play a little bit more of the United States.”
But the Hamilton-based artist points out that not all artists have the same option.
“Restrictions in each province or state are different,” Weil said. “For Canadian artists, it’s expensive to tour in the United States, where restrictions are a little bit looser. Then it becomes difficult because Canadian musicians can’t go to a lot of places in Southern Ontario.”
However, the lack of open venues and the scarcity of in-person performances are now a thing of the past.
By the beginning of March, several live events had already taken place. Hamilton-based rapper LTtheMonk performed at the Corktown Pub, an event he describes as amazing.
“Almost 200 people there,” he remembered, “getting back to making true connections with people on stage and then continuing building those connections by talking to people and selling and signing merch when I got off stage. It was beautiful.”
LTtheMonk says he has high expectations for the upcoming months.
“I will be back to performing live a lot, especially in the summer, and I will get everybody to check out my new singles, hoping that everybody will enjoy them,” he said. “So I hope people will be watching out for those upcoming singles, with the first one coming March 25.”
The Omicron wave made this winter feel a little colder for musicians, as their contact with fans and interaction with the public was minimal. Local artists hope that as spring is coming, the warm presence of their fans will accompany them in their live events and shows.