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We are now just one week away from saying good riddance to 2020, a year in which saw a world in lockdown, attempting to slow the spread of the covid-19 pandemic. It’s been tough for most but incredibly difficult for the live music industry which shut down instantly in March. Musicians were already grappling with the measly fees they earned from their recordings on the major streaming services. Touring became their main source of income, so once that was gone things got dire for everyone, especially those who for one reason or another didn’t qualify for some of the government funding options.

If you were to find a silver lining in such a horrible year, it was that music helped to get us through it. From the moment the world locked down, musicians found creative ways to express themselves. We’ll never forget the images from Europe of musicians and singers performing from balconies or rooftops. Then there were the frontline hospital workers, playing music to dying patients and lifting spirits to those who would go on to survive.

Where would we have been without the internet in 2020? For musicians it became their stage. Artists had to get tech savvy quickly or sink. Live streams via Zoom and Skype were all the tools we had to work with and for many artists, it became a great way of reaching new fans all over the world. It was after all a captured audience. We couldn’t go out and more people than ever were online with a thirst for new and engaging music content. The Melbourne-based Instagram concept, The Isol-aid Festival was one of the brightest stars to come out of the year.

It was a weird time to celebrate Australian Musician’s 25th anniversary but we did our best to bring you interesting and relevant information. Our ‘Musicians in Isolation’ series of interviews, whereby we interviewed artists via Zoom and Skype into their homes around the world  became a regular feature. One of the first interviews we did was with Midge Ure, in which he outlined the series of events that took place on his New Zealand/Australian tour, where covid-19 was nipping at the heels of each date, not knowing if a gig would go ahead or not as the rules kept changing.

Another casualty of Covid-19 was the Melbourne Guitar Show, which couldn’t take place in 2020. Instead we presented a well-received special 2 hour livestream version of the Melbourne Guitar Show on Make Music Day in June.

We also had time to honour Fleetwood Mac founding member and guitar great Peter Green in our two and a half hour interview tribute Remembering Peter Green.

Perhaps the most heartening aspect of 2020 was that it was a bumper year for music product sales. Musicians purchased gear to aid in their live streams or new recordings. Those who had put music aside for years, took the opportunity to revisit an instrument. Parents not wanting to have their kids spend all their time on video games bought them musical instruments instead. For many of the major wholesalers, it was a record-breaking year. Many retailers had a strong year, despite the difficulty in getting stock into the country from overseas. Some specialist retailers had a hard time, particularly in Melbourne, but store closures did not materialise. The music products trade fared pretty well in 2020. Music stores will be open throughout summer, so get down to your local and see what new product they have and support your local music stores.

Sadly, we lost many musicians in 2020, some to Covid-19, others because of Covid-19 and of course many whose age and long term ails caught up with them. Included in the list of those we lost are: Eddie Van Halen, Leslie West, K.T. Oslin, Charlie Pride, Billy Joe Shaver, Jerry Jeff Walker, Spencer Davis, Helen Reddy, Mac Davis, ‘Toots’ Hibbert, Trini Lopez, Peter Green, John Prine, Charlie Daniels, Little Richard, Bill Withers, Ellis Marsalis, Manu Dibango, Kenny Rogers, Don Burrows, Bonnie Pointer, McCoy Tyner, Lyle Mays, Andy Gill, David Olney, Neil Peart, Bones Hillman, Mike Noga, Ken Hensley, Max Merritt, Steve Priest.

As we look to 2021 with Australia in a relatively safe and prosperous position, and with vaccinations now being administered around the world, we can view the future with an element of optimism. We begin 2021 with our coverage of Believe in Music Week, the virtual version of the NAMM Show, which kicks off on January 18. We’d also like to think that restrictions will allow us to present the MGS2021 in August at Caulfield Racecourse

Thanks for supporting Australian Musician in 2020. Have a safe and happy holiday season and don’t stop making music!

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