Canceled Tours Lead to Uncertainty for Musicians

Mary Grace Ritter | The PhoenixRock newcomers Badflower played a mix of tracks at its tour-opening show at the Bottom Lounge Sunday, Sept. 30.

Social distancing and limited gatherings amid the coronavirus crisis have brought touring plans in the music industry to a screeching halt. 

The novel coronavirus has been spreading around the world at a rapid rate, amounting to 160 cases and one death in Illinois. As a result, Loyola has moved all classes online and made students move out of dorms, but this situation has left no industry or person untouched.

Concerts in the near future have been canceled, meaning artists are watching months of planning and future revenue go down the drain.

Colleen Dow, the lead singer and guitarist of Chicago-based band Thank You, I’m Sorry, said the band had been prepping for two upcoming tours for the past six months.

The first was an acoustic tour with New Hampshire-based band Perspective, a Lovely Hand to Hold March 26-30. The second was with No Momentum from Albany, New York April 3-12. Both were canceled within the past week due to the rising number of coronavirus cases. Dow, who uses they/them pronouns, said the situation has been changing so rapidly that they didn’t see this coming.

Courtesy of Colleen Dow

“It just very quickly went from, ‘Oh this could be a cause for concern like we should keep an eye on it’ to within a few days being like, ‘Yeah there’s no way this is happening,’” Dow said in an interview with The Phoenix.

Dow said this has resulted in a financial hit for those involved, losing money on plane tickets, merch sales and ticket sales. They said this makes it difficult “to fund things that bands need to do.”

Beyond supporting their music, the cancelations bring the status of the members’ day jobs into question. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Monday all bars and restaurants in the state would close for dine-in until March 30 to slow the spread of the virus. Dow has already lost their job as a result of the virus and these closures.

“All of my band works in the service industry … and all of us are being faced with not having jobs,” Dow said. “I mean, I don’t [have a job] now, but my other bandmates might not have jobs to come back to.”

Dow also noted the band members had all taken time off for the tours, so even if the companies paid out employees through schedules, they wouldn’t be on them.

Loyola senior and musician Jamie Jacobsen echoed the financial burden for musicians amid the show cancelations and bar closures.

“I have a lot of friends who work part-time [as a] musician, part time at a bar and all the bars are closed, so they lost both forms of income because of this,” Jacobsen said. “I have no idea how they’re going to pay bills or live.”

Courtesy of Jamie Jacobsen

Though both discussed the financial issues, they hesitated asking for help from fans, not wanting to impose their burdens on anyone else. Despite the setbacks, Dow said fans have been supportive, purchasing some of the merch the band intended to sell on tour off its Bandcamp website.

Jacobsen has a show scheduled for the end of April but is unsure of its current status, saying “it’s still up in the air right now.”

She hopes to play the show, but acknowledges the continued bans on group gatherings, now limited to no more than 10 people. During social distancing, she said she plans to take this time to write and plan for what comes after this.

“It’s a good time to plan for the future because even if someone wanted to release an album right now … you’re going to need time to market it, so come up with really good marketing schemes,” Jacobsen said.

Moving forward, Dow hopes to reschedule Thank You, I’m Sorry’s tours, but doesn’t want to invest too much time in the specifics yet.

“It’s hard to plan around this because you can’t — there’s not a limit on it,” Dow said. “I don’t think any of us want to start planning it because none of us have any idea where this is going to go and it’s scary to put that much work into it when the same thing could just happen again.”

While Dow said the whole situation is “disheartening,” they said the band members are still looking out for one another.

“Right now I think we’re all just coming together as musicians and as friends who care about each other.”

Jacobsen also maintains that optimism for local artists and support from the community. She said creatives should use this time to do what they do best — create.

“You can be proactive in this time, it just has to look different than what you normally would do,” Jacobsen said. “It’s time to be innovative. Maybe we can bring joy to people in different ways than we normally do. It’s time to get creative.”

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