Last week Gavin Newsom, the Governor of California and the world’s fifth largest economy, ordered a complete shutdown of the state. Its 40 million residents were essentially told to go home and stay there with the possibility that roughly 56% of Californians, or about 25.5 million people, were expected to contract COVID-19. It was a drastic response coupled with a dire warning. At the same time thousands of US university students were partying on the beaches of Florida, seemingly oblivious to their own danger and the possibility of spreading the virus to the population at large.
Here in Sydney an unusually warm March day saw thousands flocking to Bondi Beach despite numerous government and health department warnings about avoiding large gatherings of people. Later in the week the Federal Government brought in a four square metre per person restrictions for patrons in restaurants, pubs, clubs and other indoor spaces. Whilst some venues had already rearranged their seating to comply, others had totally ignored the advice and many customers continued to sit within the range of mutual airborne bacteria. It’s not surprising that in a pub or club setting the degree of social distancing diminishes with the increased consumption of alcohol.
At the time of writing, Victoria and NSW have just announced a lockdown of all non-essential services and it seems the other states will soon follow suit. For the entertainment and music industry this would mean the final closure of those few bars and venues that have been hanging in there during the past few weeks. Already we have seen many musicians announcing they are looking to live streams and podcasts to connect with the public and this is bound to become the new norm over the coming months.
in the immediate future it looks like the loungeroom and the couch will become the hub of our amusement and cultural activities. Of course many in the community have already adjusted to that way of living but certainly expect lots more live music streamed from all variety or artists and bands. Some of these musicians might look to monetise their web streams to compensate for the disappearance of all live gigs, whilst others might simply do so as a service to their fans and the community at large.
At times like this ingenuity always comes to the forefront and who knows what we might be offered in our loungerooms, as a music or cultural experience in the future. Whether free to air TV and pay per view services will come to the party and program live concerts and gigs remains to be seen, but you would expect many operators to capitalise on the situation.
The question also arises whether many Sydneysiders, in particular those of a more hedonistic persuasion will be content to sit endlessly on the couch for the foreseeable future. It’s unlikely we will witness what happened in Italy a few weeks ago where quarantined apartment dwellers joined in a community orchestra and sing-song from the social distancing of their balconies.
Give the shutdown two or three months and there’s bound to be a section of the population who could well become stir crazy and look to underground and illegal gatherings in a devil may care attitude. In the same way police once busted unlawful warehouse raves, we could see COVID-19 defiance parties raided by a constabulary clad in hazmat suits and armed with spray cans of disinfectant.
The only thing we can be certain of in the coming weeks is the uncertainty of it all and it would be a brave person to forecast just where we will all be, two to three months from now.