How Social Distancing is Impacting our Music Community

Angelique Kidjo at Cedar Cultural Center - photo by Laura Buhman

There are many stories to tell in our current COVID-19 world of music. Music venues are shutting down, photographers are relying on nightly shows to sustain them, artists are cancelling full tours, and everyone in the service industry surrounding these activities are taking a huge hit. 

Music has always been the bond that unites people. Watching live music is about getting together in a space and engaging with the artist. We’ve had that taken away from us for what appears to be at least two months, and the string of cancellations continues unabated. Although there is no way to shine light on all of the people affected, I caught up with some local musicians, promoters, photographers, and music venues on the impact and surreal change of life this month.

KOLARS at 7th Street Entry
KOLARS at 7th Street Entry – photo by Laura Buhman

Laura Buhman – Music Photographer

As a music photographer for Music in Minnesota and First Avenue, Laura is typically found front and center at shows, 3-5 nights a week. It’s a routine that has netted some stunning photos and experiences. She shared that there’s a real conundrum with shutting down venues and postponing shows, even if it’s the right thing to do.

“I am at my happiest when I’m seeing live music; both in the crowd and in the photo pit. It’s truly the place where I can quiet my mind and share some time with my favorite artists,” shares Laura.

St. Paul and the Broken Bones at Palace Theater
St. Paul and the Broken Bones at Palace Theater – photo by Laura Buhman

Laura notes that the main thing she’s been thinking about it all the artists, roadies, venue staff, and sound people that make these experiences happen for us that are all at home right now. She stresses how important it will be when the doors reopen for us to show up for all of these people. In the meantime, support your local artists by streaming music, buying band merch, and sharing music with your friends.

Angelique Kidjo at Cedar Cultural Center
Angelique Kidjo at Cedar Cultural Center – photo by Laura Buhman

Erik Koskinen – Musician

Erik was in the midst of a heavily booked March when the coronavirus shut down all of his spring gigs. The majority of his income comes from live shows, and suddenly that relied upon revenue is gone. The hope is the gigs are able to be rescheduled to May. Erik confesses that if we need to shut down venues to change the outcome for the better, then it’s the way it has to be.
“I’m kind of a social introvert, so I’m okay with not seeing people all the time, for a little while,” Erik says. “It’s really too early to tell. Ask me in three weeks and I’m sure my answer will be different.”
Photo by Darin Kamnetz
There are some potential positives with how our music may be transformed during this social distancing. Erik sees the large amount of people that have home recording studios and predicts the ability to send around songs to each other to build on them. So the song may start with Erik playing guitar on it, sending it over to drummer, then onto a bass player, then to an uncle that plays sax, and so on and so forth. Check out Erik’s new powerful song, “i got you (to get my through).”
“I believe we are gonna come out of this weird time a better people as a whole and it’s also the lean times when the best art is made.”
Erik emphasizes that reaching out and checking on musicians is highly important. Mental health is a priority during social distancing. Buying music is the fastest way to help artists financially. 

Rachel Calvert – Musician

Rachel is fortunate to have a job that allows her to work at home through this period, but was quick to share how many of her musicians friends are also servers and work in the retail industry. It’s led to a double down of a bad hit, in that venues are closing, gigs are being cancelled, and then all of the side hustles are also getting closed down as well.

“I think on top of the fear and anxiety a lot of people have just about this pandemic in general, there’s this additional anxiety about how am I going to pay my bills?” Rachel says.

Photo by Jeff Mateo

On the other side of that, Rachel has seen a swift coming together as a community in the past few weeks. People are promoting each other, buying each other’s merch, and getting together virtually to brainstorm creative ways to protect their art and support each other.

Rachel has also seen the impact of websites trying to offer assistance to our communities. Many of them are down because they are so overwhelmed by applicants. She shares that it’s very important to pay attention and help each other by staying smart and informed, but not to panic. We’re going to face a lot of frustrating things and avenues we wouldn’t normally seek out during this time.

The Twins of Franklin – Laura Lou and Becky Shaheen

Recently off of a packed February month that saw the release of their album Low, The Twins of Franklin are among many artists looking to keep our community feeling connected. The wave of streaming shows being planned is inspiring. It’s a huge resource for artists to stay connected and provide mental distractions from the challenges outside our windows.

Photo by Nina Luna

“I think both our hearts are hurting for the community as a whole, and those who rely on the Minneapolis community for income,” Laura and Becky note.

Please keep donating and supporting local artists through merch sales and buying their music. The Twins of Franklin will be doing an Instagram live show this Thursday, 3/19 at 8pm.

HALEY – Musician

Haley is one of the many musicians that has lost most of their income due to canceled gigs. Artists without income grapple with ways to make an album or songs, to fund a project, or even travel for work. Haley has turned to her home studio sessions and expanding her skills in recording. She suggests that maybe this can be an opportunity to use our own resources and collaborate long distance more.

“Though fans like to go to the shows, most people don’t otherwise actively support and pay for music, especially individual artists. Maybe this presents an opportunity to change society’s outlook on arts/entertainment as an essential service,” Haley says.

Credit: Colin Michael Simmons

Haley started a Patreon account last Fall for fans to directly support and follow her work on a regular basis. Fans are able to pay what they want for access to music, visual art, and podcasts. Given the circumstances, it’s a direct way to support Haley and many others. Please consider joining here.

Karen Wells Verlander – Media Director for Blue Ox Music Festival

Karen issued a statement last Thursday that the Blue Ox Music Festival is dedicated to working with local, state, and national authorities to monitor the situation. With a mid-June festival, they are remaining positive that the show will go on. Karen states they are dedicated to monitoring and communicating effectively with all the people involved and will honor what all of our great music fans and artists would like to do.

“We’re effectively reaching out to everyone and letting them know how we’re keeping the vigil and the light going. We support such a big group of artists in the upper Midwest and so we want to make sure that that is done for all of our family,” Karen shares.

Blue Ox Music Festival 2020

Karen also notes that if the festival is cancelled, it’s not just isolated to that. There is a wave and domino effect that’s going to adversely effect the entertainment and hospitality industry on a global level. When you have to reschedule tours or festivals, you are substantially and incrementally affecting thousands of people. But the health and safety of all involved is of the utmost importance during this time.

Phil Borreson- SolSta Records

Not being able to go see live music or buy vinyl records is a huge shift of behavior for many people. SolSta Records have a monthly series, Live From The Record Room, and an online store that should help fill that gap. They are continuing to record all of their shows and putting them online for people to enjoy. Their entire catalog of records is also online with free shipping over $50 as an option as well.
With Record Store Day being pushed back to June 20th, local music stores like Electric Fetus, Caydence Records, SolSta Records, Hymie’s, and Barely Brothers Records will be hurting. Please consider keeping your record collection alive by going online and purchasing records from all of these stores.
Photo by Sara Fish

Chris Mozena – Hook & Ladder Music Venue

Losing two (possibly more) calendar months of bookings is beyond difficult for any music venue. As a non-profit, The Hook & Ladder are also set to lose their two largest fundraisers as well this coming spring/summer. The outlook is full of uncertainty in the wake of this unprecedented situation. There are glimmers of positivity in the near future with potential to keep the music going through live streaming. As more artists turn to this option, I fully expect music venues being that conduit to host these shows.

Hook and Ladder
Photo by Ben Allen

This Friday at 8pm, The Hook & Ladder will host Kind Country on Facebook Live. The venue has partnered together with BryteSpot Media for a 90-minute livestream concert utilizing multiple cameras, professional soundboards, microphones, and mixers to provide the highest quality experience possible. Log-in and check out what could be the next best solution for keeping us connected to live music and our precious music venues.


With all of these suggestions and stories, it comes down to individual action to keep our vibrant music community alive. Social distancing is hurting a social industry. There are so many ways and avenues to help. It can be daunting with the sheer volume of people needing assistance. To help me, I think ahead at the shows I was planning on attending the next 3 months and still give to those artists like I would have at the show.

There are two huge resources below that I strongly suggest.

Twin Cities Music Community Trust – All funds donated will directly impact someone who has lost a gig due to COVID-19 and its effect on the industry. This includes night staff, door staff, bartenders, security, stage crews, tour managers, merch sellers, photographers, local musicians, and more. 

Live From Home – Chris Riemenschneider of the Star Tribune gathers a guide of all the upcoming live streaming shows in our community. Schedule and plan on catching shows just like you would before.

“My biggest fear with all of this is losing the sense of community. We want to keep people healthy and safe and happy, but most of all not afraid.”
-Jenna Enemy with The Von Tramps.

Written by Smouse

Having spent 13 years recording and producing Minnesota artists, along with running a small record label, Smouse is a passionate advocate of musicians and artists in Minnesota.


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