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Live-streamed gigs like those by K-pop stars BTS gained incredible popularity during the lockdown. (Photo: Reuters)
Live-streamed gigs like those by K-pop stars BTS gained incredible popularity during the lockdown. (Photo: Reuters)

How music has come to our rescue during the pandemic

Across the world, people continue to struggle with coming to terms with a normal not many would have ever imagined. And with no true short-term endpoint in sight, this normal may last far longer than anyone would like

When the war is over

and we go back to everyday, everyday

Will it be the same again?

When you’ve been turned inside out and outside in?

These lyrics from Dave Matthews’ song, “Singing From The Windows", inspired by the covid-19-induced quarantine, aptly capture the emotional anguish we are experiencing today. Across the world, people continue to struggle with coming to terms with a normal not many would have ever imagined. And with no true short-term endpoint in sight, this normal may last far longer than anyone would like.

Many of the weapons in the battle against the virus, measures like lockdown and quarantine, come with their own set of nefarious side-effects—from loneliness and anxiety to stress, even depression. We mourn the loss of earlier, perhaps more innocent times, when enjoying things together, like listening to music with loved ones at home or in a concert, was a simple act of joy that we all too often took for granted.

Music is one of the great loves of our lives. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, the start of a new relationship, or just a bright Sunday morning or a dull working Monday afternoon, there’s always a tune to match our feelings and occasions.

During the start of the lockdown, videos went viral on social media of neighbours singing with each other across their balconies. The trend happened in India, Spain, Italy, the US and Germany, among others. There were violins, flutes, even utensils. Research shows that we when sing together or listen to music together, our brains produce oxytocin, the “love" hormone.

A study of 2,000 people conducted earlier this year by market research company OnePoll, in conjunction with Harman, found that music is the No.1 way that people cope in stressful situations. Over 80% of those surveyed said music has helped them get through the pandemic-induced quarantine, while 64.2% said watching virtual musical performances helped them feel connected to others.

To understand the power of music connecting people during the lockdown, one needs to look no further than the incredible popularity of live-streamed concerts, virtual in-game appearances, and group singing sessions via videoconferencing: K-pop stars BTS set a new world record for a live-streamed music audience, when 756,000 fans from over 100 countries tuned in to their pay-per-view event, Bang Bang Con: The Live, in June. In the “Battle Royale" online game of Fortnite, Travis Scott’s appearance was viewed by an astonishing 12.3 million players.

Free live performances from artists like The Rolling Stones have given millions of fans a glimpse into the homes and lives of their musical idols. This year’s biggest selling album, Taylor Swift’s “Folklore", was written and recorded during the lockdown, and she became the only artist in history to have seven albums sell half a million copies of a studio album in a week.

Clearly, we yearn for music, especially live music since it brings us into a state of elation in which nothing else exists but the sound and the rhythm. For many of us, being unable to enjoy live music has been a source of real grief. There are many ways to keep the music playing even as we transition to the post-pandemic world. An optimized listening environment is key, as is practising the art of active listening. You could also reconnect with live albums that you love. This could be iconic live performances such as Talking Heads’ concert film Stop Making Sense, The Band’s farewell concert “The Last Waltz", or Nirvana’s “Unplugged in New York".

The explosion of virtual shared music enjoyment is one of the more unexpected gifts of this crisis. It has progressed in the past months more than it may have developed in the next six years under ordinary circumstances, opening up countless unexplored avenues for development. Musicians and tech providers need only ask themselves how best to use the heightened desire for virtual communities to share music, discuss information and connect. The possibilities are as exciting as they are numerous.

In a time of physical distancing, music has unified us to fight this virus better.

Dave Rogers is president of Harman (lifestyle division).


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