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Your ableism is showing.

Concerts are back into full swing. This past weekend, My Chemical Romance performed in Milton Keynes and social media was flooded with crowds of adoring fans singing along to “The Black Parade”. They’re not the only ones - we’re seeing many acts finally going back on tour to the delight of many music fans. The Music Industry is trying to fix itself by recouping their losses from the ongoing pandemic and find some semblance of normalcy amongst the chaos of the past 2 years.

However, as many people have been saying from the start of the pandemic, there is a group of people still not ready for in-person performances. It could be due to their disability, due to them taking personal precautions regarding COVID or both!

At one point we had it all. In the last two years, especially during the start of the first lockdown - venues/artists were encouraged to cater to those at home. Even when in person performances started up again, there was an effort to provide a virtual option for those who were still shielding. Additionally, there was a glimmer of hope for those of us who couldn’t risk being at in person performances to still feel included. Venues promised to do better by the disabled community (also named vulnerable or high risk people) to provide virtual options and ensure that everybody could enjoy the fun.

This all changed when the PM announced that all COVID restrictions would be dropped; it was met with trepidation by the general public but not much push back. I was especially disappointed from some of the larger organisations who during the initial stages of the pandemic were joint in solidarity with disabled people - now they’re out partying with the rest of the country. I was especially disappointed with those who call themselves abolitionists or radical thinkers still perpetuating ableist behaviour by suddenly not providing any virtual options.

It’s wholly unfair that the loss of virtual shows has meant that artists and concert goers alike are missing out on opportunities to be a part of the live music industry. I’m personally not someone who suffers from FOMO because I like my house but I still feel like I’m losing out on opportunities. There was an effort to include the disabled community until they realised there was more money to be made with in person performances. As I was told by a live events organiser - we’re not financially viable anymore.

Outside of money, disabled artists miss out on the social aspects of live events as well. They miss out on networking with other artists who might be that person who can finish their single. It becomes harder to reach out to people who might become dedicated fans. They could even miss out on industry executives who might be the person who gets them that record deal. Is it fair to expect artists to risk their health in order to be seen in person? Even music industry professionals say “you just have to put in the work, talk to the right people, make good music and you’ll see results”. But that’s not true is it? If you’re not providing people with an option to perform/network safely than people automatically miss out on seeing “results”.

Some people have argued that Tik Tok is a space where people can network and grow their audience organically at home. However, it is not fair that these artists must work with an algorithm which has been known to discriminate against those who look “poor”, “ugly” or “disabled” (we could also argue the implications of who is considered “Ugly” but I’ll just add some resources here).

To sit and create Tik Toks almost daily to be seen also means that artists are losing out on time that should be used to look after their health. Some artists (like myself) have a day job to help fund their art form which means that creating content is like taking on an unpaid job part time.

However, I do want to highlight the validity of online communities. Although missing in person events is a real feeling and something the disabled community has contested with for years now; social media has been a helpful bandaid. It’s exciting (for lack of a better term) that we’ve been able to express our disdain for how we’re being treated. People have been giving out advice on how to deal with Long COVID. Even if we’re not being heard by the general public, there are some people who care. And personally, they have been the loudest cheerleaders. I am grateful to be part of such a loving community.

But as previously stated, social media takes time. Often we don’t have time to post online or perform online to garner clicks and attention that we need. Curating our own spaces is cool but wouldn’t it be nice to have the support from people who have the capital/resources to assist people who are at home to be part of the live music industry.

There is value in the online space. Even if you, yourself, are okay with being in a crowd - advocate for people who aren’t. Ask your local performers to provide an online option. Ask your local venues to make an effort. Put aside money to finance virtual options and hire consultants who are experienced in this area so that you can help do it right.

I think we need to ask able bodied people to listen to disabled musicians/those who are in the house and take a chance on them. Support their projects, help them with funding. This is the time to prove your ally ship. Do you see us as “real musicians” or hobbyists?

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