In the 2017 Melbourne Live Music Census, the Victorian capital was revealed to house more live music venues per capita than any other city in the world. Better than London (1 per 34,350), New York (1 per 18,554) and LA (1 per 19,607), Melbourne had one venue per 9,503 residents. Not only that, but the study also estimated that the 73,000+ annual live gigs across Melbourne in 2017 had created 18,331 part-time jobs for musicians, DJs, venue staff, production staff and security personnel.
Yet fast forward to today and Victoria has experienced four state lockdowns and contributed to 68 per cent of the countries COVID cases with more than 26,000 jobs lost in the Victorian Arts and Recreational Services sector from February to August. Melbourne, like the rest of the world, continue to endure the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the thousands of Melbourne creatives impacted by the pandemic is artist and producer, Reyko (stylized as REYKO!).
Before the first lockdown, Reyko and his Hip-hop collective New Wave Infinity ambitiously invited 60 local artists and producers to collaborate on their debut project, All Corners. Recorded across the first week of 2020, Reyko spent the remainder of the year in lockdown, mixing and mastering the collaborative album and beginning to record his debut solo EP, BEHIND TIRED EYES.
Image Supplied: Nick Rae.
The streaming profits from All Corners were donated to The Healing Foundation, a charity that supports Stolen Generation survivors, families and their communities. Though with the inability to tour and gig, Reyko’s livelihood as a musician was severely affected and the Melbourne creative was forced to adapt to the indefinite challenges of COVID-19 and reconsider his career approach.
In the initial stages of Melbourne’s first lockdown, New Wave Infinity member and music video director Nick Rae felt the music community showed unprecedented support towards one another.
“We had some really cool stuff like there was this movement where everyone would start to share each other’s stuff and their profiles and pushing the message of supporting creators. We started to think outside the box on how we can keep this movement going but as we progressed weeks later I think we saw a shift in general people becoming far more isolated and normalised to that concept.”
As more lockdowns followed, and the Australian music industry remained vulnerable, Nick Rae shared his experience post-lockdown in an Instagram post detailing the impact of the pandemic on his mental health and career as a videographer.
“I felt like I fell on my face after lockdown because I had normalised myself to this routine that suddenly changed and there were these expectations to go and now socialise and go work and it took me a long time to adapt back to that,” Rae said.
According to a recent study by RMIT University, the Melbourne lockdowns incited a loss of routine and heavily impacted their mental health issues and opportunities to network. Despite the radical change in livelihood, Rae reflects on his time during lockdown as the beginning of a new chapter in his career.
“Previously, my process was to just film shit that looked cool and smash out videos as much as I could. In lockdown, I got more invested in the art and I looked far more deeper into analysing paintings and visual artwork. I realised I need to be more selective with what I capture, and curate it in a sense that so much more is said in so much less time,” Rae said.
“I feel like I’ve established the seeds of a stronger brand, refined my process and become more open as an artist and that’s what I kind of got from lockdown that I’m still incorporating into my work.”
Outside of their own work, Nick Rae recognises the silver linings COVID-19 presents to the Australian music industry, indicating that the pandemic has reshaped how artists market themselves and instilled a stronger appreciation for collaboration and independency.
“A lot of these artists have home studios that wouldn’t have existed 10-20 years ago and a lot of artists would’ve halted completely. But because we have access to that, a lot of people have created a new catalogue. From what I’ve seen from my bookings and artists reaching out to me, a lot of them have explored different sounds and have tried to drastically tried to increase their sound and branding. They made so much improvement in such a short amount of time.”
Sharing the same sentiment, Reyko believes creatives will approach their future in the industry with a higher regard for time and opportunity.
“People are just realising that the lost opportunities of last year are now facing them directly and they have to take it. It’s really good, as bad as everything was, it’s been a wake up call for a lot of people.”