By Matthew Meyer
Sitting at the desk in his room, Joseph Reyes, an independent musician from Victoria, BC, assembles his recording equipment. Placing his USB microphone on his desk, he untangles its cables and plugs it into his laptop, the same computer used for classwork for online high school months ago. His piano keyboard sits on the table, ready if Reyes wants to add a beat. Checking his phone for the fifteenth time in the last twenty minutes reminds him of the extended lockdown in Victoria, which has ensured Reyes will be recording by himself for the foreseeable future. But ignoring this thought allows him to get started.
He opens his digital audio workstation and begins working on a new song. Hitting his fingers against the drum pads on his MIDI controller fills his headphones with a groovy beat. His feet are tapping under the desk. Next comes the “pads”, soothing piano sounds used to create ambience in a track. Reyes’s fingertips dance over his piano keyboard as he adds more harmonies, almost creating their own beat as they tap and click. With his headphones on, the sounds of his family’s conversation in the kitchen are nothing but white noise, hopefully not picked up by the microphone. A smile creeps across his face as his ears fill with the satisfying sound of a song come to life. But as his hands fly across his laptop keyboard, they start to slow as Reyes remembers that he cannot finish the song alongside his producer. He jots down the song’s name, chords, and lyrics in his notebook and shuts his laptop. Getting up from his chair, he closes the notebook, too, the song now added to the long list of ideas that hopefully someday soon Reyes can show his producer.
Reyes had only released a few songs before the lockdown began and had not played many live shows. The optimistic musician hopes to kickstart his music career once the restrictions are relieved. However, he is stuck like many others in the music industry. But with all this time on their hands, what have musicians been up to during the pandemic?
For Reyes, it has been a period of self-reflection. A time to prepare for his hopeful entry onto the music scene.
“I’ve been writing a lot of songs,” Reyes said. “I’ve been able to have so much free time. I’ve been doing a lot with music, and just also finding out what kind of style I want to focus on.”
Reyes has not seen his producer since the lockdown began, and as a result, he has not uploaded anything new since his last release in August 2020.
But before the pandemic, in a music industry filled with labels, contracts, gigs and more. Artists like Reyes, in the beginnings of their music career and with little experience, could easily have found themselves overwhelmed. But the pandemic has given independent musicians like Reyes an opportunity to step back and be critical of their work before entering the post-pandemic music scene.
During a segment of Music Ally’s Sandbox Summit Global conference, called, “Future of Streaming Post-Covid”, Amaechi Uzoigwe, manager and business partner for two popular music groups, Run The Jewels and Songhoy Blues, spoke about musician’s post-pandemic prospects.
“When Covid lifts, you’re going to see an explosion of music from the big guys as well as from all these new younger artists who’ve found footing.”
According to Uzoigwe, a large reason for this growth is social media. Apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitch have allowed musicians to connect with fans and provide a look into their daily lives.
Joseph Reyes said he hopes to post more content soon, after learning about the benefits of social media, “Independent artists are really growing these days, and it’s a lot easier to just like get your music out there, especially with stuff like TikTok. People are just getting famous like that,”
I also talked to Brodie Radford, an independent musician from Thunder Bay, Ont., who managed to amass eleven thousand followers on Instagram under the name “August Brodie”, even landing him a spot on MTV News and Spotify’s editorial playlists.
Radford started his music career making R&B and hip hop music, but through self-discovery, morphed into a pop-punk/emo-pop artist over the last two years. His online following has attracted several offers from different music labels, but Radford said he prefers to stay independent.
His success with social media helped him explain the importance of social media. Radford utilizes Instagram and Facebook ads to attract new listeners, and also posts on TikTok and more. With his debut project on the way, Radford is looking forward to promoting it.
“I post on all social media [platforms],” he says. “But I’m about to kick it up on the social [media] game with the release of this new project.”
Like other musicians, Radford has tried reaching out to fans in other ways like handing out flyers or searching for gig managers, but according to Radford, social media is the key to success.
“It’s basically just like word of mouth, but like through a process that’s just so much more massive, and the reach is phenomenal.”
Similar to Reyes, Radford has been unable to meet with his producer in Toronto and has been at a standstill, trying to promote older content but unable to release anything new.
However, also like Reyes, the pandemic gave Radford time for introspection.
“It’s definitely given me a lot of time to sit with myself and kind of figure out where I want to go with it and sit with the songs, sit with the lyrics and really make [my songs] mean something.”
At Music Ally’s Sandbox Summit Global conference, Chaz Jenkins, chief commercial officer at Chartmetric, a music analytics company, spoke about the prospects of growing artists in the recent state of the music industry, “We have seen more emerging artists really grow their audience this year more than ever before,”
I could hear the excitement in Reyes and Bradford’s voices as they talked about their post-pandemic music plans, but waiting for vaccines to arrive and restrictions to relieve, may take time.
As the world around them gets louder by the day, their studio headphones seem to block out the chaos of society. Music provides comfort to some, for others it provides excitement and more. But for Reyes and Radford, it’s been a life raft, carrying them through months of lockdown towards a hopeful post-pandemic music scene.
Check out the infographic below to find out how independent artists release their music!