It has been a tough year for musicians.
Seemingly overnight, tours were postponed indefinitely or cancelled altogether.
Theatre doors remain closed and locked, heavy chains wrapped around their handles.
And with restrictions on the size of gatherings and social distancing protocols unlikely to disappear as quickly as they were enforced, who knows when we will be able to head to a venue again.
For global superstar Troye Sivan, 2020 has thrown him a curveball, both professionally and personally.
“This year has been such a plot twist in all of our lives,” he said.
Not that the 25-year-old has been sitting idly through tough Melbourne lockdowns over the past few months.
He released a new EP, In A Dream, with accompanying music videos in August — all from his brother’s spare bedroom.
“It’s been really weird. All of the usual triggers of releasing something — like shows and rehearsals — none of that has happened,” he said.
“I feel like a YouTuber again. I used to make YouTube videos and just upload them from my bedroom.
“I’m really excited to get out into the real world and feel some sort of tangible result of releasing this music. But for now, it feels too easy, almost.”
Making music in pyjamas
Sivan’s not alone in finding freedom with more relaxed recording standards.
“Having my own studio, I could come down and do stuff whenever,” singer-songwriter Josh Pyke said.
“Sometimes it was when my kids were at school during the day, sometimes it was late at night in my pyjamas with a glass of whisky.”
Pyke has also released new music during the pandemic — his first album in five years — and worked with musicians remotely to finish his songs.
It’s something Indigenous popstar Isaiah Firebrace can relate to.
The Melbourne-based singer-songwriter released his latest single, Know Me Better, following virtual recording sessions with his production team in Sydney.
“It was a really cool, different and interesting way that I’ve never ever recorded,” he said.
Then there is breakout star Gordi, who was supposed to be touring the US back in May but has been in lockdown in Australia instead.
“My life this year looks very different to how I thought it was going to look,” she said.
“Now I’m in Melbourne failing at making sourdough bread like a good portion of the population.”
New technology has helped billions of people stay connected throughout the pandemic, so it makes sense that artists have turned to social media and video platforms like Zoom and Instagram Live to continue their craft while live performances and in-person collaboration remain impossible.
“Maybe I won’t have to worry about spending too much on a business-class ticket to LA,” Firebrace mused.
“I can do it from home and I can be in my pyjamas.
“It’s definitely something I would look into moving forward, because it makes it easier and you get high quality recordings done. It’s great.”
COVID could halt the exodus
The “brain drain” of scientists and technology specialists away from Australia to foreign markets has long been lamented, and the same could be said of musicians.
The lure of LA is nothing new.
The United States has been revered as the pinnacle for singers who dream of breaking into the American charts for decades.
As such, many jobs — in production, costuming, lighting, sound mixing — are lost to those markets.
But could COVID-19 change all of that?
“Before, I was at the one extreme where I was always on the road and always in LA and now I’m here,” Sivan said from the suburbs of Melbourne.
“I think I can be releasing this music from my laptop, which is really cool.”
For Sivan and a growing cohort of internationally renowned artists, the break from a gruelling tour schedule and the inability to collaborate with other artists in person may be the catalysts for lasting changes.
“One of the first things that I felt when everything started getting crazy was a huge loss and concern and worry for my industry and creatives and freelancers,” he said.
“I reached out online, on Instagram, for album art and posters and T-shirts and all this stuff and I actually have found the most incredible graphic designers through this process.
“It’s been really cool to be forced to find new talent and think of creative ways to keep talent I already work with working.”
More time to focus on the music
We may even see an uptick in creativity and output from our local artists with the distractions of life on the road tamed
“I’ve been so busy the last three years,” Firebrace said.
“Emotionally and mentally, I really did need a break to take it all in and get a new perspective, it was really important for me.
“I’ve been really trying to find my sound and a certain style that’s true to me and that I really love.”
The pandemic has undoubtedly reshaped the music production landscape.
But the past few months have taught artists around the world that a laptop, phone or tablet may be the most important instruments going forward.
At least, until Australian acts can get back onto a stage.
“It might be the case of doing national and regional touring and then waiting until next year to get back on the international scene,” Gordi said.
Getting back to the stage is something Pyke is also keen to explore.
“I didn’t realise how fulfilling it was spiritually as well as it being the bulk of our income; it’s something that we all feel is missing from our lives,” he said.
“We’re all just adapting as we go and the music industry and creative industries have always been pretty good at pivoting on a dime.”