Musician-writer Dessa on what happens when artists’ gigs go away

Kai Ryssdal and Maria Hollenhorst Mar 30, 2020
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“I think we are gonna have this big boom of art in the next few months as people are hunkering down over their keyboards,” Dessa says. Sara Fish

Musician-writer Dessa on what happens when artists’ gigs go away

Kai Ryssdal and Maria Hollenhorst Mar 30, 2020
“I think we are gonna have this big boom of art in the next few months as people are hunkering down over their keyboards,” Dessa says. Sara Fish
HTML EMBED:
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From Coachella and Broadway to community theaters and small-town concert venues, opportunities for musicians and performing artists who make their livings on stage have disappeared.

“The artists who were on the road came home,” rapper, singer and writer Dessa told Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal. “A lot of us were frantically texting and emailing one another at the same time. And now the question is, like, OK, well, how far out should we consider those gigs vaporized?”

In the meantime, artists are connecting with their audiences in other ways. Many are turning to social media, where they can broadcast performances on platforms like Instagram Live and solicit donations through Venmo, PayPal or Patreon. 

Dessa hosted a poetry reading on Instagram Live last week and has another reading scheduled for Thursday.

“I think, really quickly, we’re trying to figure out, OK, what does it mean for the group of people who’s really good at bringing other people together in times of crisis? What are we supposed to do when we’ve got to stay apart to get through this one?” she said. 

Because of social distancing measures, many of the jobs that performing artists have traditionally fallen back on, such as serving and bartending, have gone away as well. 

Dessa said the feeds of cash apps like Venmo paint a portrait of the financial challenges facing performing artists.

“It’s almost like watching the exchanges happen there. [Venmo transactions] are telling the short story of this crisis in the creative and service industries,” she said. “Scrolling back two weeks ago, it was ‘Thanks for the tacos.’ And now, you know, in the past few days, it’s like, ‘thanks for the home concert.’ Like, ‘You’ll get me when you can.’ Or ‘Thanks for groceries. I got you next.'”

Dessa does see one positive side to all these performing artists confined to their homes.

“I think we are gonna have this big boom of art in the next few months as people are hunkering down over their keyboards,” she said. “I think there will be a bloom of awesome stuff.”

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