Roundtable: Music, social justice and the pandemic

During our Sharp Notes, Sharp Thoughts  roundtable discussion on Oct. 19, we asked our team members: How has the pandemic affected music’s ability to be a part of social change? Here are exerpts of the conversation that followed.

Freeman: I think we just should start with acknowledging the devastation the pandemic has had on the performing arts.

Wilt: A lot of bands are not connecting in person anymore; they are connecting at home.

Ziek: We are consuming media at a more rapid pace now so I think there is a different view of music at this time Steven brings up how we are buying new music, but we are also ingesting it in a new way.

Gilham: More lucrative musicians have a greater opportunity to promote social justice. If it’s those folks we are relying on to promote social justice, then I think this overburdening of starving struggling artists that David and I are worried about isn’t as much of a serious problem.

Freeman: I don’t care to talk about Metallica or Phish and laud them like “They are able to face the pandemic and really utilize the media in a different way to reach their fans, and they are even building a children’s hospital in Rwanda.” If I had a cool mill in my pocket, I would be building a children’s hospital.

Gilham: I am not trying to applaud these artists as if they’ve done something really great. I’m an ethics professor. All I am trying to suggest is they have done almost the bare minimum it takes to satisfy some moral responsibility they have.

Wilt: A program Joe Bonamassa put out at the beginning of the pandemic ties the two together. He a sells guitars that were signed and raises money from donations that goes straight to the artists. An artist can apply for a $500 weekly check for pandemic insurance, and Joe Bonamassa is funding a lot of this out of his pocket.

Ziek: David, you’re focusing on the micro level on the artists that are on the ground level that most Americans don’t really know. One of the things that fascinates me when we talk about the larger level, the macro level, is that they are bringing attention to the idea that we need to think about people beyond who is onstage because they have the platforms. One would not survive without the other.

Click here to view the full video.

Click here to learn more about our Sharp Notes, Sharp Thoughts project.

 

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