Live music needs an audience, but with gatherings of any size banned for the foreseeable future, the local music scene is suffering.

"When Covid-19 hit New Zealand, the local live music scene hit a brick wall," said Peter Dickens from the charity MusicHelps. "The merch people, the security people, people on the door, promoters, the riggers, stage hands – all of them have seen their livelihoods go from being sustainable to being completely unsustainable in a matter of days."

The charity has been around for eight years and has stepped up to offer those facing hardship some much needed support.

"We develop and support projects in the community that use music to help people in need. That includes music therapy in hospices and hospitals, music projects with at risk and vulnerable young people, and music with disabled people.


"The other side of what we do is emergency financial assistance and counselling support for Kiwi music people who are experiencing illness, distress and hardship."

During lockdown there's been plenty of distress and hardship, so artists have had to think and perform 'outside the box'.

"You've had lots of innovative models coming out," said Dickens. "There's the model that Nadia Reed [used]. She had a massive US tour shut down in a matter of days, which was an incredible opportunity for her, she sold tickets via Eventbrite to a password protected Zoom show and I believe she had 400 attendees which would have been a fantastic show for her."

Tauranga performer Damo Innes saw his busy gigging schedule dry up almost overnight.

"I've done between three and five gigs a week, local stuff like Dinner in the Domain. That's where I was at and then obviously with the Covid situation, with the lockdown, pretty much overnight I saw every gig was gone within two days. I can't honestly predict what's going to happen in the near future," he said.

But lockdown turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

"I started doing some live streams and that was really good because that was something I hadn't done, because I'm older so I was pretty useless with the social media. I probably only had my little toe in that door prior to the lockdown and since the lockdown I've put a lot more effort into trying to see how that whole virtual world works, and it's been quite good. It's a positive, a silver lining if you like, out of the whole lockdown experience."

Mount Maunganui DJ Ayesha Kee has a similar story.

"I had a couple of weddings lined up and they got cancelled. My residencies and things like that got cancelled. I think I'm lucky in this situation where I'm okay at the moment. I'm lucky that I wasn't living week to week."


While the arts are not officially an "essential service" Covid-19 has shown how important they are to people's daily lives and sanity.

"When we've been locked down have you been drawing, listening to music? And it's all those kinds of the little bits of the arts that people don't realise how much value that has until it's taken away from them," Kee said. "Because we won't be getting a lot of international musicians coming through, that we look at what talent we've got here and we do support those people."

Buying and supporting local doesn't just mean buying a takeaway from the fish'n'chip shop.

"What we've done is launch a campaign called MusicHelps Live. It's about raising funds so we can provide counselling support and emergency financial assistance to those people that are really doing it tough, but it also includes a whole lot of ways in which people can support the local industry, support local and buy local."

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