The Ones Left Behind

In the foreground, a photo of Daniel G Wilson is blue and pixelated. They look off camera contemplatively. In the background, a raging silhouette of a live concert event, lit in orange and yellow.


By: Daniel G Wilson | Photo by: Daniel G Wilson | Art by: Michael Rancic

I have had many bad days in my life, so awful they remain burned into the black matter of my brain: the day I got my first diagnosis; the Christmas I spent stuck in the emergency room; the day my father died; and even the day I lost my best friend. Those days chipped away at the core of my being like an artist taking a chisel to clay, forever changing the trajectory of my life and outlook on existence and humanity itself. March 11, 2020, the start of the lockdown, was another such day.

I am a long-time sufferer of autoimmune disorders, primarily neurosarcoidosis, a disease that causes granulomatous lesions to grow on parts of the body, and severe gastrointestinal issues that cause myriad defects when I experience a flare-up. Sarcoidosis is the most frightening because it directly impacts my central nervous system. Insomnia, chronic pain, disrupted mental capacity, and complete loss of motor function in my limbs are a small sample of the maladies my sarcoidosis can cause. By comparison, my stomach issues seem less horrifying despite disturbing memories of vomiting blood into a bucket while my stomach literally twisted into a knot.

I am also a musician, one of many artists who suffer from conditions that force them to be conscious of their bodies at all times and how they live in the world. Daryl Palumbo of Glassjaw is one of the most famous examples in punk music and one of very few people I know of who wrote a song about their experiences with an autoimmune disease. Dan O’Bannon turned the horror of his experiences into art by writing the original Alien movie. Comedian Bernie Mac’s death always stood out to me because he died from complications caused by a different variety of the same diseases I have. Part of the reason why so few prominent artists talk about autoimmune disorders is the fact that these are not pleasant, widely known about, or even easy to understand. These conditions exist because our bodies are, in a way, fundamentally different. Where a healthy immune system is supposed to keep the body running in top form, auto-immune disorders are a cruel inversion that cause the very thing that is supposed to keep us alive to become a threat to our bodies. The experience is like having a body that can leave us in a state of humiliating and debilitating pain when left unchecked—and, in many cases, lead to our death. There is no true cure because you can’t “cure” the body you were born with. It marks you as an outsider. For these reasons, it comes as a shock when members of popular touring bands like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard frontman Stu McKenzie announce that they must take a break from touring to deal with auto-immune-related health issues that were previously never mentioned.

When the first COVID-19 lockdowns were being announced in Canada, I felt a familiar feeling, the deep dread of re-lived trauma. I’d kept up with the news, so I knew what was coming. Everyone thought COVID-19 was a simple virus that would be gone in a few weeks, or a few months at most. But I didn’t have to be a student of history to know how world governments and general populations would react to a global pandemic of an unknown disease—being in and out of the health-care system for half my life was enough to prepare me for the worst of this new threat. In hindsight, I would be surprised by how low the bar turned out to be.

Daily reports of COVID-19 numbers were the metric by which I gauged how widespread the virus was in my local community and my odds of contracting it from even the briefest interaction. Thanks to restrictions like occupancy limits, vaccine passports, social distancing, and mask mandates, I was able to experience semblances of normality⁠— albeit with caveats. I could see my bandmates during short periods when case numbers were down but restrictions were tight enough that everyone treated public health as a priority. My bandmates and I were able to record an album by ourselves (mostly over the internet) and even got to record a live set (again, with no crew except me and our drummer). These strictly scheduled meet-ups where everyone was masked at all times were some of the only consistent human contact I had outside of my mother, with whom I live, and my brother, who drove me to my appointments.

These moments did not last. I have not seen either of my bandmates in a year and half. With no restrictions, slowed vaccination efforts, a decline in public safety measures, a lack of consistent case reporting, and the forgoing of mask mandates, the probability of my bandmates spreading the virus to me is much too high. They are still young and need to live their lives, and so do most of the people I have not seen in years. I can’t ask them to be cautious and not enjoy their youth just so we can hang out or make music, and I wouldn’t expect them to even consider it an option.

The loss of identity that comes with not being able to perform live or interact with other musicians face-to-face has been profound. Music gave me so much. It gave me confidence when I felt hopeless, community when I felt alone, and a guiding light when I felt lost in a storm of pain and fear. To have so much of what made music special for me stripped away in the blink of an eye due to a literal force of nature and human error and be left with no recourse but to return to the confined existence I thought I had left behind is a nightmare come true. I’ve spent so many hours and weeks reevaluating my life, cursing the days when I thought I could finally live with tomorrow in mind and put things off for later. A highway of options is now indefinitely closed. The music has died.

I personally know numerous music industry workers who are in a similar position because they’re immunocompromised themselves or taking care of an immunocompromised loved one and can’t risk being a vector of infection: people with conditions that directly impact the immune system, like auto-immune disorders, or require medication that impacts it, such as treatment for cancer or HIV/AIDS. In our talks, we air our misgivings about the current attitudes towards public health and our shared pain at not being able to freely do the things we used to. So many musicians have been left behind by both the world and the industry in which they work. In many cases, they have even been left behind by the very scenes they used to call home.

Over the past three years, I’ve been constantly reminded how little my life matters to the society in which I live, whether by strangers on the news blocking hospital entrances in protest against public health measures or people in my own family who tell me with no sense of irony that the vaccines are the real danger and how it is all a conspiracy, people who reveal how much their “right” to not be inconvenienced matters more than the health of their community. 

The music industry is not very forgiving either, to those who are unable to perform or are unwilling to follow the status quo including conforming to a set image. This is an unspoken truth of not only the highest levels of the mainstream music industry (the realm of stadium tours by multiplatinum pop stars) but even in the DIY world where great pains have been taken to avoid the pitfalls of the former. Live performance has always been crucial for gaining career traction, developing a network (both supporting and professional), and forming a genuine sense of camaraderie with like-minded individuals. This is how scenes are born, which poses a problem for those of us who are physically unable to “play ball.”

When musicians are expected to play through physical maladies as mild as the common cold or severe as a broken leg, it becomes difficult for people to sympathize with those who don’t want to perform in an enclosed space with potential vectors of a disease to which they’re uniquely at risk. Without burning a bridge, how do you tell a promoter you can’t play a show because you don’t want to contract a virus people think does not exist anymore? How do you tell your “friends” you can’t attend their  unmasked shows, or even hang out with them like you used to, without sounding avoidant and non-committal? These are questions so many of us have had to ask questions I have asked myself in cold sweats in the middle of the night as I wonder if I will ever get to exist in the world again.

The way the live music industry operates is incompatible with the measures necessary to prevent the spread of disease. Most venues rely on selling alcohol to survive, and patrons cannot drink if they are expected to wear a mask at all times. Promoters and bands need as many people in a room as possible to ensure a profit, which has led to overbooking venues. Concert organizers have shown that they do not want to require patrons to be vaccinated to attend. In some cases, those patrons even become violent if such measures are proposed. Venue staff do not want the hassle of ensuring people follow mandates they themselves might dislike. And finally, the majority of venues may not have the desire or means to update their ventilation or hygiene protocols (evident to anyone who has ever been in a venue washroom). Due to these factors, the majority of music venues will not enforce safety measures unless prompted by government mandates. Without such mandates, responsibility shifts to venues, who then pass it onto artists and concertgoers. As a result, artists find themselves in a difficult position: they risk alienating portions of their audience, and they risk missing out on much-needed performance opportunities and potential revenue.

So much could be done to improve the conditions for immunocompromised individuals on a governmental level and a societal level. Attitudes about illness, disability, and public health need to change in practical and tangible ways. The notion that personal convenience is more important than the health and safety of those around us has to be challenged. 

Years into the pandemic, it is clear that the music industry hasn’t learned many lessons about how it could transform the sector into one that puts the health and safety of performers, workers and audiences first. For the sake of artists like myself and immunocompromised peers, and others who love music but recognize the need to protect everyone as the industry gets back to work, change is needed⁠—now.

Would you congratulate me if I got a job at Spotify?

The epic handshake meme where one arm says "musicians," the other arm says "music journos," and their handshake says "solidarity."

Would you congratulate me if I got a job at Spotify?

By: Michael Rancic | Meme by: Michael Rancic

Watching musicians and music journalists congratulate someone who landed an editorial job at Spotify is a moment from last year that will stick with me for a long time. The announcement arrived on Twitter less than a month after artists like Santigold and Animal Collective canceled their respective tours, citing that it would be impossible for them to recoup their costs if they went ahead. It was hard to not feel nauseated seeing the wave of congratulations with this recent news in my mind — the dissonance between the kindness on display and the worsening conditions of our industry was truly bizarre to witness.

Why are we congratulating this?

Opportunities for journalists in this country are few and far between, and only diminishing. For many, the Spotify gig is a rare chance to be able to do what we do best for a living, and actually have our work affect the lives of artists and the tastes of fans alike. Spotify Canada says they have 11 million users — what music publication in Canada has that kind of reach? What music publication in Canada pays a living wage to do it? You’d be a fool to not try for that job. 

What happens when that living wage is made possible by exploiting the very artists you’d be using that platform to champion? In an ideal situation, our work can help turn people on to new music, feature emerging artists, shine a light on the vital work happening within communities, and help provide context for the music that people fall in love with each day. What do our words, respective tastes, or areas of expertise even matter if ultimately the result of that work contributes to the further devaluing of music as an art form, and further marginalization of musicians in our country? 

Figures from Comparably estimate that a Spotify editor makes somewhere in the realm of $79,000 USD a year (around $105,370 CAD). Spotify claims it doesn’t pay artists/rights holders per stream, but instead by their “streamshare” in a given month (the monthly percentage of streams that their work accounts for in their country), so the per stream rate actually fluctuates. But whether the service pays out $0.003 or $0.005 USD per stream, focusing on that number feels like splitting hairs — or pennies — it’s a fraction of what those artists should be paid for their work. By those rates, it would take roughly over 26 million streams for an artist to make equivalent to that paid editor staff position at the tech company. Even at a more modest $50,000 USD a year (around $66,700 CAD), an artist would need over 16 million streams to reach that sum. To put that in perspective: an artist clearing that much in royalties from the streaming service would require more than one play per registered Spotify user in the country, which is a kind of ubiquity most artists that we spotlight here at New Feeling only dream about. And that’s just for one job. Spotify has an entire editorial team, not to mention all of the coders and other staff who keep the tech company afloat.

Let me be clear: this critique is not an indictment of the person who took the job, others who’ve made the same choice before them, or the people who congratulated them. As journalists, we’ve been put in an untenable position where the only choices afforded to us to be able to do what we love is to do so at someone else’s expense. This struggle is an issue we all have to navigate, but one that I’m hopeful we can begin to navigate together.

Last month, Spotify proved just how necessary and urgent it is to understand how these struggles are intertwined when CEO Daniel Ek announced a company-wide restructuring, laying off 6% of their staff worldwide. That figure translates to roughly 600 workers, including editors and coders. Though still operating at a loss in terms of yearly revenue, this series of layoffs, along with news of a promising close to 2022 (thanks to a spike in earnings and member growth), spurred a rise in the company’s stocks, their best day on the market in a year. Shareholders come before employees and musicians alike, all because the platform paid too much for Joe Rogan’s podcast. Can you imagine who will bear the brunt of things if artists are ever in a position to negotiate higher rates from Spotify in the future? It won’t be the shareholders. This hierarchy is exactly how capitalism and competition sow division between workers who can and should be organizing alongside one another. This current restructuring is part of an industry-wide trend amongst tech and media behemoths like Amazon, Google, and VoxMedia who are all cutting costs through their workforce, despite performing well in 2022. 

Stay respectable, stay employable

Respectability demands that we congratulate the peer who nabbed a rare gig, even if that job is inherently bound up in the extractive policies that make our profession harder and harder to do, because how polite and agreeable we seem affects our own employability. A nice smile and “congrats” to the person who has their hands in your pockets fishing around for cash is both a survival tactic and a coping mechanism. That’s not to say that the congratulations in this case were insincere — we all want to see our peers do well — but these kinds of interactions, especially highly visible ones on social media platforms like Twitter, are invariably tied up in the politics of the insecure working conditions that dominate the lives of musicians and journalists alike.

In “Never Employable Enough: The (Im)possibility of Satisfying the Boss’s Desire” Ciara Cremin writes about how the scarcity of good, well paying work coerces workers to adjust their behaviours in line with the expectations of an imaginary “spectral” boss. “Because we cannot afford to rely for our satisfactions on employment in a single company given the perceived insecurity of labour, desire cannot be directed to appeal to the desire of one boss in particular. To remain in contention for jobs and promotions we seek the approval of a generalized boss, a non-existent big Boss: a spectre of capitalism: the spectral boss.” Cremin, a critical theorist based in New Zealand, points to the means-testing of unemployment benefits like welfare as an example of how this notion of a universal, omnipresent boss is reinforced. 

When it was being distributed, part of the qualifications for receiving CERB involved applicants confirming that they were actively looking for work, and that they were not turning down legitimate opportunities for employment. Applicants were also required to have made at least $1,000 in the previous tax year, barring anyone facing unemployment prior to COVID-19 from using CERB, and later CRB, as support that they could leverage to change their situation. In determining whether or not we were even worthy of receiving financial aid, that worth was rooted in our capacity to generate wealth as workers, not in our wellbeing as people. 

This reality is one that disabled and unhoused folks have had to contend with forever, and was especially made apparent during the first year of the pandemic, as CERB payments were almost double that of monthly disability allowances from programs like the Ontario Disability Support Program.The Canada Revenue Agency even launched a snitch line to encourage the public to report people suspected of receiving these aids illegitimately. Capitalism asks us to surveil ourselves and others in the name of demonstrating our own obedience and commitment to it, because doing so might impact our employability. We’ve all had that coworker who times other peoples’ breaks, going so far as to inform management when there’s an indiscretion. 

Within this panoptic and precarious dynamic, scarcity breeds further anxiety about our own employability, forcing us to fixate on how we can improve ourselves in the eyes of our spectral boss. “Rather than the structural relations that determine employment, it is the worker who becomes the cause for disappointing employment histories: she has to overcome herself if her prospects are to improve,” Cremin writes. Our gaze turns inward to self-improvement, blinding us to the structural relations that really determine and shape our employability. These fears are legitimate — work is hard to come by — putting us in a double bind where it makes social and professional sense to congratulate someone on taking a job we’re all well aware is making things actively worse.

Cremin’s observations are echoed by Amelia Horgan in Lost in Work: Escaping Capitalism. “Today’s workers are expected to excise the scalpel on their own personalities. Productivity, once primarily a question of national statistics, becomes an ethos, guided by apps and hacks designed to make you the best possible version of yourself,” Horgan writes. “Of course, this process of optimization can yield results that are positive, that feel fulfilling, but the question of what we are self-optimizing in service of can’t be answered without reference to the diminishing chances of securing a job.” I’m currently looking for full-time or part-time work and making a habit of locking my Twitter account every time I fire off another application, even though I largely use it to share my professional accomplishments and published work. The instinct to hide that part of myself comes from uncertainty of whom I’m actually trying to appeal to. That lack of specificity makes us all work harder to find creative ways to become appealing and likable.

As Cremin notes above, this inward, self-critical gaze and preoccupation with surveillance and self-improvement also creates barriers toward seeing and understanding the structures that actually shape our work and how capitalism socially constructs our relationships to other people. These barriers also sap time, energy, and perspective away from organizing around our labour and actively make doing so undesirable. If you’re underpaid, underemployed, and under the assumption that the problem is you, what incentive is there to band together with your competition? And if you do eventually land a job, any job, we’ve seen in recent high profile cases at Amazon and Starbucks that starting a union could be grounds for dismissal. But for the working conditions of journalists and musicians to improve, we need to work in league and build solidarity together.

What can solidarity look like? 

To even imagine a world where it’s actually frowned upon to be taking a job that actively hurts, marginalizes, and exploits others’ art and ideas, we first need to nurture solidarity, and that begins with understanding what solidarity actually means. Solidarity is a relationship built on the foundations of reciprocity, sympathy, and mutual support. It’s that relationship that becomes the basis for collective action. 

We can strengthen that relationship by recognizing our commonalities. We share this “spectral boss,” which shapes and determines so much of our actions and behaviours, not just in the music industry but for all working class people. All of us live under and are influenced by white supremacy, settler-colonialism, and capitalism. All of us are subject to the skyrocketing costs of living, housing unaffordability, and conservative governments that are forwarding agendas of austerity that gut social programs and assistance. Professionally, we work from project to project, are underpaid for our work, and often have to chase clients for months to be paid. The work we create itself is used to generate wealth for multinational corporations, venture/vulture capitalists, landlords, real estate investment firms, and tech companies. The conditions of that work often force us to put our own health and wellbeing at risk because getting sick means not getting paid. If journalists are not approaching our work with this understanding of our interdependence and the intersectional forms of oppression that relate our struggles with that of artists and musicians, then there is no point in doing it. When our writing focuses on artistic merit alone, it obscures the political contexts that led to the creation of the music. 

It’s also important to recognize our differences. One of the reasons why there isn’t a stronger sense of solidarity between journalists and musicians right now is because there is an imbalance in this relationship that engenders mistrust. I see this often manifested as “if you’re not a musician, you shouldn’t write about music,” a sentiment I obviously disagree with, but one that I can’t blame musicians for harboring. If I were a musician and saw journalists fawning over jobs at Spotify when I can’t afford to even tour, I wouldn’t trust us either. I would also be skeptical of efforts to unionize, like the Apple Together movement at Apple, or the Alphabet Workers’ Union and striking Youtube Music/Cognizant workers, when the unionization literature makes no mention of either company’s exploitative policies around compensating artists for their work. Music journalists, our editors, and publication owners hold so much sway over the lives and livelihoods of the artists we write about (even the ones we choose not to). We need to acknowledge that imbalance, and in doing so, take it upon ourselves to build that trust by understanding how our struggles are linked, and approach our work through that lens. 

Dr. Anita Varma, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Media at UT Austin, leads the Solidarity Journalism Initiative, which supports journalists to improve coverage of marginalized communities and resists the notion that journalists can, or should, be neutral in their reporting. The Initiative has prepared a very helpful guide on Solidarity Journalism in practice. Varma writes: “Solidarity in journalism means that journalists stand for basic human dignity and against suffering, and is practiced through newsworthiness judgments, sourcing, and framing that center the lived experiences of people subjected to unjust conditions. The decision to report – or not report – on these conditions inherently leaves neutrality behind.”

Ultimately the greatest way to build solidarity is through action. We must align ourselves with the political causes of artists, for instance: refusing to attend or cover shows that take place at venues and festivals where management takes a cut of merch costs, in line with Cadence Weapon’s #MyMerch Campaign. We can refuse to attend or cover shows at venues and festivals that are not physically accessible for our disabled colleagues. We can refuse to attend or cover shows at venues and festivals without masking policies in place, because we know they create a higher risk of COVID-19 infection and isolate immunocompromised people from our scenes, and we know that pandemic denial is directly related to the affordability crisis pushing artists and creatives out of urban centres. 

Together, we can resist precarity. In the same way that sharing pay rates with one another increases our collective ability to bargain for fairer compensation, finding commonality through the exploitative nature of our work helps build empathy and collective power. Invariably the only way forward is through bold steps like divesting ourselves from streaming services like Spotify entirely, but for that or other initiatives like a general strike to be successful, they require solidarity. 



By: Tom Beedham | Art by: Tom Beedham

We heap a lot of importance on concert venues, but places are just spaces, and they’re only as good as what you fill them with. Between March 2020 and the time of this article’s publication, they’ve also spent a lot of time empty, and for a while we didn’t know when—or if—they would come back. Then, 2021 brought gigs back indoors, at least for a moment. With Omicron shutting activity down again, venue operators are back to wondering how to start over, but in 2021, we got a hopeful glimpse of where things will pick up in the future.

The community surrounding venues has been galvanized, organizing quietly and through more formal pandemic-minted advocacy groups like the Canadian Independent Venue Coalition and the National Independent Venue Association in the United States. That means some of the smallest black box venues have broadened their solidarity networks across countries and continents, positioning them to access avenues of mutual aid and support, sharing resources like best practices around livestreaming and safety protocols, or even funding streams only large and mid-sized clubs might have previously had the time to discover, let alone pursue.

Approaching a return to live concerts in 2022, brick-and-mortar venues are similarly positioned to reclaim and re-politicize the future of their spaces as stages for exploring harm reduction and community care, improving the material conditions of the communities that move through and surround them in the process.


With countless concert venues lost as a consequence of so many months without revenue, space is more precious than ever, which means we should expect radical new approaches to how concert venues are utilized. Where protocol will allow, that should include dedicated streams of matinee programming; bluer skies may spring new venues as collectively owned and operated spaces.

In December 2021, multi-arts venue Sous Bas (based in Hamilton, Ont.) debuted a new program called Sous Bas Clubhouse, a collaborative co-programming model where, for the price of $500 a month, members are entitled to 12 hours of private use of the space and have the opportunity to earn a share of cover charges and bar sales. With a mind toward providing a kind of one-stop hub for work-life balance, the Clubhouse membership also affords members access to a stream of collective activity programming, including exercise and meditation sessions, movie screenings, and more.

As spaces that are in some cases already officially exempt from noise bylaws, it just makes sense concert venues explore more creative applications for the infrastructure they already have in place, especially in denser cities where concert venues and practice space is scarce—that said, some local zoning laws might regulate against the use of performance venues for rehearsal space.

Other venues have pursued membership on a patron level as a means of supplementing the risk of walk-up ticket sales and incentivizing guest attendance.

In Fredericton, the Cap launched Project #KEEPITLIVE, a membership initiative and donation drive offering venue members exclusive access to deals, online discounts and merch, as well as presales for records and concerts.

An effort the Cap calls an “opportunity to build something better than before,” it also echoes the venue’s past—in 1998, the Cap’s original owners opened with a $50 annual membership model that gave patrons a two-for-one deal on their first round of drinks and free cover. 

“Times were different, but we always recognized how the membership created a sense of buy-in from those patrons,” Cap owner Zachary Atkinson explains over email. “We’d always wanted to bring them back.”

Launched in 2020, #KEEPITLIVE attracted 90 active memberships and raised over $25,000—funds that allowed the Cap to purchase plexiglass barriers for table sections, room speakers that let sound be piped into those barriered sections from overhead, new room and stage lighting, as well as camera gear that helps the venue livestream performances (with or without audiences). The funds also helped the venue replace its old mixing console with an iPad-compatible board, eliminating the need for a front-of-house station and opening up more space for physical distancing or patron capacity, when appropriate.

While the Cap offers memberships as a way for patrons to opt into providing additional support, Vancouver grassroots venue and community organization Red Gate Arts Society has pivoted completely to a membership model, requiring any and all event patrons to purchase a $10 annual venue membership.

“The response has been almost entirely positive, despite the delays that it tends to cause at the door,” Red Gate co-director Jim Carrico says over email. Red Gate has experimented with membership and fundraising drives in the past, he explains, “but it was more of a voluntary donation thing, with perks like t-shirts etc.”

Red Gate’s membership program also improves its negotiating position, allowing the organization to present itself to granting bodies and public supporters “as a large community as opposed to a small collective,” accumulating an extensive list of the patrons the venue serves.

Atkinson and Carrico don’t anticipate their venues’ memberships will have direct input on how they are booked, but membership models also pose unique opportunities for venues and event series to decentralize stewardship and democratically address community input regarding policy and booking practices from the bottom up.


We can’t talk about live concerts without talking about livestreaming, and a return to physical concert-going remains pivotal for communities living with disabilities. They spent years articulating a need for livestreamed concerts prior to the pandemic, only to be glaringly ignored until able-bodied fans couldn’t show up anymore.

Now that we’ve had a hint of the other side, we’ve also seen more of the same.

While many concert venues maneuvered the pandemic’s shutdowns by offering their stages and sound systems to artists performing streamed concerts online, many still returned to operating practices that more closely resembled pre-pandemic routine as soon as local guidelines allowed, abandoning livestreaming elements entirely. 

In this respect, venues like Red Gate and the Cap are leagues ahead of industry ableism, dedicating labour and resources to livestreaming many, if not all, of their post-lockdown shows online.

“We did very much lean into streaming without audiences, and then eventually with reduced audiences once restrictions loosened in New Brunswick,” Atkinson explains. New provincial funding that covered the labour to operate livestreams through the earlier part of 2021 also allowed the venue to pay all proceeds from online shows to the artists.

“Streaming everything is very possible,” Atkinson notes, but with the bustle of reopening, at times it meant livestreaming fell by the wayside. “In all fairness, our streaming efforts did begin to fall short in the spring—our team were also musicians and were looking to be back on stage more often, so that, along with the reduced amount of interest we were seeing online, made us move away from streaming during the summer. We also recognized that more outdoor events were possible and accessibility was more achievable.”

Atkinson also acknowledges some technical limitations. “Streaming with good video and audio takes some diligent work, and no matter how good you are, you’re still at the mercy of your internet connection. Sometimes it just doesn’t want to play nice—we had struggles with it at the best of times.”

Certainly, livestreaming doesn’t come without its challenges, but Red Gate has no plans to leave it behind as live events come back, pushing forward with a new 24/7 streaming platform, Red Gate TV, accessible to venue members and non-members alike. 

“Obviously our main priority has been to provide a space for the local scene to gather together and develop in a supportive and collaborative environment, but we have long recognized that to fully support the local scene we should be doing our best to also provide exposure beyond our own little insular communities,” Carrico explains. “There’s a lot of skills and talents in our immediate circle, so we’ve been able to draw on some diverse expertise in lighting, cameras, network and server programming and admin tasks.”


Not everyone is itching to gather indoors.

In a November 2021 newsletter titled “The Shock Doctrine Applied to Dance Music,” French writer and culture critic Jean-Hugues Kabuiku calls the accelerated return to live music a reflection of “disaster capitalism.” Borrowing phrases from Naomi Klein’s 2007 book The Shock Doctrine, which articulates that capitalism exploits moments of crisis or “shock” to advance capitalist goals, Kabuiku argues there is a direct relationship between a premature return to live events and the reassertion of capitalist expressions that were muzzled by early pandemic shutdowns, all the more violent in the context of a pandemic.

With the acceleration of COVID-19 variants like Delta and Omicron, some disability activists have also argued the push to bring back physically attended events is inherently ableist, pointing to COVID-19’s ability to spread amongst the community, and the risk that poses to those with compromised immune systems—a reality that is amplified at indoor events, regardless of legal mandates requiring patrons to provide proof of their requisite vaccinations prior to entry, especially when patrons ignore house rules asking that patrons continue to wear face coverings when not actively drinking. (In a recent presentation titled “Disaster Ableism, Academic Freedom, and the Mystique of Bioethics,” biopolitical philosopher Shelley Tremain also builds on Klein’s concept of disaster capitalism to introduce what she calls “disaster ableism,” referring to “strategies and practices that produce, exploit, and aggravate perceived and actual economic, political, environmental, and social disasters and crises in ways that advance eugenic goals.”)

But with governments abdicating public health responsibilities to businesses while wrapping programs that provided financial support for venues to stay closed and staff to stay off the job, the choice to operate isn’t much of a choice at all. Painting all venues with the same brush denies an opportunity for the intervention of harm-reduction philosophy—a direct retaliation to systemically reproduced capitalist harm. Without alternative venues rooted in legacies of harm reduction and consent culture, the only spaces around are those geared toward consumption and risk-taking behaviour.

The first venues financially situated to bring back staff and reopen under distancing guidelines were laissez-faire and corporately owned. Pivoting directly from livestreaming to in-person events, they circumvented mask restrictions by encouraging their patrons to act poorly by practically pushing alcoholic beverages into their hands at every second. For every such space, there exists an ad hoc counterpart that goes above and beyond the public safety standards established by regional governing bodies directly compromised by neoliberal lobbying interests.

When the COVID-19 pandemic created a need for indoor environments to actively confirm patron vaccinations were up to date, Red Gate’s pivot to a members-only model created protective infrastructure for guests and their communities, streamlining contact tracing in the event of breakthrough cases.

A statement on Red Gate’s website acknowledges some concerns about the membership policy “creating more financial hardships for our already strained community, by adding to the expense of a night out,” but as with their regular attendance fees (typically in the $5-10 range), the memberships are available on a pay-what-you-can basis, with no one turned away due to lack of funds—extending the same material benefits of membership to anyone in the community, regardless of their financial position.

In any viral context—no matter how benign—and in concert with membership systems and sliding-scale admission policies, livestreamed events can also be important implements of community harm reduction, offering a FOMO-fighting consolation for patrons that opt out of attending a gig when they’re not feeling 100 percent about a tickle in their throat.

If we’re going back into concert venues in 2022, the ideological conditions will be staggering. Change is slow coming, but industry players in smaller venues and alternative spots are focused on correcting material inequities at a time when they mean more than ever before. The revolution will be livestreamed, and we’re all invited.