How Covid-19 Killed Live Shows and Rappers’ Incomes
With touring accounting for more than half an artist’s income, people have been forced to get creative
Over the past few years, Blimes Brixton and Gifted Gab have watched their rap dreams blossom. As West Coast duo Blimes and Gab, the two have been co-signed by Method Man, worked with major brands such as Converse and Pandora, and graduated from small venue performances to festival stages like Austin City Limits and the Uncool Festival. And when their song “Feeling It” was featured on the season four premiere of HBO’s Insecure and their debut album, Talk About It, launched, they were poised for another, more significant upgrade.
Instead, they sat home.
Thanks to Covid-19, the duo had to cancel a handful of prominent festival shows booked between March and late June — and with those live shows went half of their annual income. “I don’t know when that moment was when I realized shit ain’t finna be the same,” Gifted Gab says, “but I do know we weren’t getting those deposits and everything was postponed until the unforeseeable future.”
Most artists weren’t making a lot of money before the pandemic. An artist could get one million streams of all of their music and it likely wouldn’t net them $9,000. “Especially with independent artists, no one just makes music,” Gab explains. “To be an independent artist, you have to have at least five to 10 hustles. You’re not going to pay your rent off of music until something significant happens.”
Perhaps worse than the dent Covid-19 has put in artists’ wallets is the ceiling it placed on the growth of a crop of newcomers, just as they were primed to truly breakthrough to a wider audience. After all, interest is made on the charts — but stars are made on the road.
Live shows have been a major part of those hustles. “A festival show could be your income for a month,” says Blimes Brixton. The…