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FYI

The Covid-19 Chronicles… David Newberry

When the pandemic forced the cancellation of the Toronto singer/songwriter’s weekly performance series, he started making digital compilations. Here he describes the process and offers thoughts on the future of his profession.

The Covid-19 Chronicles… David Newberry

By Jason Schneider

When singer-songwriter David Newberry first organized the weekly gathering In Basements On Sundays at Toronto’s Wenona Craft Beer Lodge in 2017, it followed the longstanding tradition of giving artists an opportunity to meet, mingle, and share new material.


But with such public events being curtailed because of self-isolation restrictions imposed in March, Newberry has kept its spirit alive by putting together what is essentially a digital mixtape series entitled In Basements: In Isolation. Available to purchase on Bandcamp, the collections feature many In Basement regulars, including Andrea Ramolo, Shawn William Clarke and Graydon James of The Young Novelists, doing songs recorded at home since self-isolation began.

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Having released the 18-track first volume on March 20, Newberry has already compiled a 14-track second volume that’s now available as well, featuring contributions from Dana Sipos, Melanie Brulee and others along with Newberry himself. His plan is to keep the series going for as long as self-isolation measures are in place, and those interested in finding out more can go to inbasements.bandcamp.com.

We recently caught up with David Newberry to hear more about how the pandemic has affected the livelihoods of both he and his fellow Toronto artists.

How has the response been so far to In Basements?

The first volume of the mixtape received thousands of streams and sold fairly well. I wish it sold more. One of the main goals is to raise some money for musicians that are out of work, but it’s tough to make that an impactful sum when we’re dividing the payout 18 ways. Still, we’re grateful for the support we’ve had so far. And we’ve been getting really fantastic feedback from people who seem to take some comfort in it. There is something transporting about knowing this music was all recorded in the artists’ homes while they were also isolating. People are telling us it’s been giving them a feeling of togetherness that is otherwise unavailable in the present moment. 

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You were able to set it up the project pretty quickly. What was the process like once you had the idea?

When we had to start cancelling the weekly Sunday shows, we just worked through the list of everyone who had ever played there and invited them to participate. A wave of musicians jumped on the idea immediately and got us something raw and urgent, while a second wave was a bit more calculated, and just turned in songs within the past two weeks. That’s what makes up Volume 2, which just came out.

How has the inability to play live affected you from a financial standpoint?

I am very lucky in that my non-musical employment has not been interrupted. I am, however, frightened for many of my friends, whose income relies almost entirely on touring. They are facing not only questions of “how can I pay rent this month?,” but also “will this ever be a viable industry again?” It is especially heartbreaking to see this at a time when so many of us are confined to our homes and likely relying on music to get through our days more than ever. Go buy some albums.

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Do you think the response from governments has been sufficient, and if not, what more would you like to see?

That’s an easy one. No. The $2000 per month of emergency money is an excellent program, but there are all kinds of caveats for those who qualify that excludes people who are desperately in need. In the context of musicians, I know some folk who are not eligible because they received a tiny royalty cheque in the last 14 days, or received a small payment for a live-streamed show. 

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There is no morally justifiable reason not to create a universal basic income, at least until the pandemic is over and the economy recovers. Everyday life is frightening and dangerous right now for everybody. I just can’t see how, in these circumstances, it is acceptable to say some people deserve freedom from crushing financial fear and others don’t. And obviously people shouldn’t have to pay rent right now. What an absurdity. 

What do you believe the overall impact of the pandemic will have on the music business once things start returning to normal?

Oh man. I have no idea at all. I read somewhere today that sizeable concerts may not be safe until something like fall—of 2021! The big fear is that, like with most crises, the outcome will be that people who are already secure get richer and that those who are already struggling will struggle more. In this industry, the people at the bottom are those that can never stop moving: Playing every day in a new town; rigging shows; loading gear; hustling merch. All of the things that are most at risk in this new normal. This has never been a fair industry, and it’s going to take some work from musicians and especially listeners to ensure that this doesn’t make it worse. 

I’m really leaning on a tune by my pal Corin Raymond and hoping that he is right when he says that “There Will Always Be A Small Time.” Here’s hoping.

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FYI

Fixing The News Business Means Learning To Think Differently (Guest Column)

Change is coming quickly to the news industry, and innovation has to come just as quickly.

This is the second part of a series of guest columnsseeking answers to the financial issues that have plagued Canadian news organizations.

My prescription for change is very clear. Stop trying to solve today's problems through yesterday's lens.

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