By Luis Castilla
Los Angeles has a rich culture of art and music, but with the city under quarantine, artists are left without an audience and income.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of many businesses including music venues.
Jim Smith, owner of The Smell, a not-for-profit volunteer-run music venue and art space in downtown Los Angeles, said the quarantine has been especially difficult for him. “Without any shows, we have no money coming in, which means we will not be able to pay rent for the next couple of months,” Smith said. “Also, a lot of the writers who perform there are also losing income that they rely on.”
Without a place to perform, many artists are left without a way to make a living.
Roach Sanchez of the Santa Ana band OC Hurricanes said the pandemic caused his and many other bands to cancel all of their concerts for the foreseeable future. “Many of us depend on this as working musicians and artists using our craft for a living,” Sanchez said.
OC Hurricanes were set to tour Europe, but that has also been cancelled.
Without performances, artists are forced to find more creative ways of maintaining relationships with their fanbase. Sanchez also said he and his band are using this time to polish their craft to remain productive.
Rafa Heredia of Orange County band 3LH is also making the most of the quarantine. “We’re taking this time to really evaluate and grow with our songwriting and explore different sounds with no pressure really of having to practice hard for an upcoming gig,” Haredia said.
Heredia said it feels strange not having a show to play every weekend.
“It really sucks,” Heredia said. “We thrive off the energy of the crowd, but also we’re finding ways around this like streaming a live session or focusing on content like videos or recording.”
3LH and other local bands have live-streamed entire concerts from basements and backyards. Many other musicians have started live-streaming guitar lessons on Instagram. Others like the all-woman band Pinky Pinky are hosting weekly Q&A sessions just to hang out.
This quarantine is bringing artists and their fans together in a completely new and unique way during this unprecedented time.
Smith said there is still a way for people to support these artists. “People who are able to should buy music and merchandise from the artists who are struggling to get by in this crisis,” Smith said.
Bandcamp, a website that allows artists to sell their music and merchandise has been receptive to the unique situation their users are in by waiving all fees, allowing fans to buy from artists at a reduced price.
Music venues like The Smell, however, are still in danger. “We just hope that when things get back to normal, people will return to supporting live music spaces,” Smith said. “We are a volunteer-run space with no employees so thankfully, no one has lost any personal income.”
“We have always enjoyed a great deal of support from the community and that has kept us going through many difficult times. Hopefully this is no exception,” Smith said.