Houston, TX

How Houston’s Music Community weathered the Pandemic

DIY Active

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Like the entire world, the music scenario of Houston has experienced a shutdown. The closure got initiated when Covid-19 reached Bayou City. Mario Rodriguez of Bang Bangz and Wonky Power Records says that the outbreak and its consequences in the last few weeks have been shocking for the entire music fraternity. Naturally, the music world was not ready for an unprecedented shock.

However, the musicians of Houston are not losing their resilience. On normal days, many of them play at special occasions and gigs to support their lives. Unfortunately, some of them survive by playing at bars and nightclubs that are not adequately lit or ventilated. Moreover, some perform in social settings where they are exposed to higher risks of infection.

But even these provisions are not there today owing to the spread of the pandemic. Further, medical experts have identified singing as one of the most pernicious ways of spreading the deadly virus. This declaration has made the situation for the singers and musicians worse.

The Impact is Much Beyond Financial Crunch

The entire music fraternity, including the sound engineers and lighting designers, ticket-takers, and booking agents, has experienced a major jolt as the pandemic has broken out. The entire cultural ecosystem has broken like a fragile piece of glass. The Mighty Orq is quite a name on Houston’s blues circuit for decades thanks to the gritty guitar licks as well as a good-humored delivery.

He says, “I went from playing three, four, five gigs a week and being out and about in public and stuff to zero.” He further adds that he has not stayed away from playing at a gig for this long, probably since he was 16 years old.

However, the crisis is much beyond losing income. This pandemic and the closure of the music world have given birth to an identity crisis. It has affected the psychological health of the singers, musicians, and other people associated with the profession.

The financial scenario will hopefully improve once things become like before. However, the fraternity today is at higher risk owing to the psychological wound this pandemic has brought in.

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Coping Up with the Situation

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo got closed on 11th March. The owner of the Convoy Group and Talent Buyer at the Heights Theater, Mark Austin looked devastated as the shows he had booked were no longer on within a span of 48 hours. His wife, Rachel, experienced a similar problem as the publicist for the Party on the Plaza concert series.

Moreover, almost 150 musicians had to bear the brunt as the shows got canceled. Austin says, “I had probably eight or ten gigs that weekend I had to cancel, and those folks had no idea that was coming.”

Being Helpless, Austin and Rachel started making phone calls to people who might come forward to put up some tax-exempted money. They became successful, and in April, they started the Houston Music Foundation. This foundation came into existence as an extension of the non-profit organization, Artist for Artists. Regarding the overwhelming response to this foundation, Austin says, “Our first 24 hours, we had 600 applicants. “We were like, ‘Holy crap!”

The foundation got support from anonymous donors and celebrated H-Town artists like rapper Bun B. As a result, it could help around 150 recipients with a whopping amount of $83,000. Any working professional from the music industry who is living in Harris Country can apply for a $500 stipend.

The applications will be reviewed by a six-member application reviewing committee. The founder couple though has a bigger plan for the foundation. They are aiming to build an organization that will lend support even in times of future disasters.

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