Bachtrack interview with Jasper Parrott on Covid-19's impact on the music industry
Bachtrack interview with Jasper Parrott on Covid-19’s impact on the music industry
Extract from Jasper Parrott's interview with BachTrack
“(…) An obvious change in mid-pandemic classical music is the enormous number of home-filmed and archival video performances being made available online free – which means with no income for the artists. “It started off, I think, with admirable intentions. Artists wanted to perform and participate with people around them who were suffering terrible privations and difficulties. So they wanted to do something very positive. And I think that was healthy, natural and good for all of us. But like most things, it went too quickly and probably in the wrong way. By now, there is a very strong consensus that the time for this has passed and there needs to be a return to the idea that music and art and performances should be paid for, sustained and valued. The more you just throw everything onto the internet, regardless of quality and without any payment, the more you will damage the return, whatever that will be, when the virus eventually recedes.
In general, however, Parrott is enthusiastic about the possibilities that new ideas and new technologies may bring. The longer the current crisis goes on, he suggests, the more people will question whether our current concert halls, opera houses, museums and galleries “which are still largely 19th century institutions” will become “obsolete or somehow not fit for purpose”: there will be less money around and Covid-19 and the climate crisis will have changed social habits and the perception of these institutions. His staff of all ages, he says, are working on concepts to combine live and digital performance to create spaces – physical and virtual – to attract new and bigger audiences. “Theoretically, there’s no reason why, for the right programme, you couldn’t have tens or even hundreds of thousands of people, which will be much greater than would ever be possible in a physical space.” He also imagines that the threat of infection will prompt the development of new technologies whereby audience members might wear PPE specially adapted to provide some form of augmented reality.
Several times through the interview, Parrott returns to a key concern: that a lot of people in governments and institutions lack the imagination to understand what is going on in the arts world and how damaging this could be. There is, he says, “a failure of many hugely well-funded public facing organisations to treat solo and independent artists with the same degree of care and respect for their financial position” that they give to employees with long term contracts or to their own organisations, which have government funding on tap. This failure of understanding extends to the point that “this music and arts business is a huge international interrelated family of talent and of inspiration and an incredibly important part of the whole structure of a good society, a healthy society, a society which actually opens up opportunities to different generations and the opportunity to include people from underprivileged backgrounds.””
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