I’d Rather Wait
COVID protocols are forcing me to give up playing music...for now.
Are all musicians so beaten down by the COVID-19 pandemic that they will do almost anything to play? Arbitrary and draconian rules are regularly being thrust upon us creative types.
A symphony orchestra in the Midwest recently rolled out their virus protocol for rehearsals and performances. A mandatory serology test of each musician was mandated upon arrival into town. Their chairs had to be separated six feet apart. Shifting around any equipment was forbidden. If moved, it must be re-measured and readjusted by the stage manager. The obligatory N95 mask must be worn.
In a show of mercy, wind players were allowed to remove their masks when their instrument actually touched their lips. How benevolent.
The orchestra performed their show outdoors in a baseball stadium. Why? To avoid all the dangers of the concert hall. Due to 20mph winds and torrential rain, they performed a Mozart overture before being sent home.
Does that sound like fun? Is that even remotely interesting? Was it worth the money they received? I’m sure it wasn’t the regular fee they usually received due to “these unprecedented times.”
In a post on the American Federation Of Musicians website regarding COVID-19 protocols and safety practices, here are some of the dozens of restrictions made on performers nowadays:
Practice physical distancing. Keep six feet/two meters away from people to the extent possible.
Wear a mask when around others in close proximity.
Don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Wear gloves when needed and throw them away after use and hand sanitizer.
Respectfully refrain from shaking hands or hugging anyone.
Cover your nose and mouth with the elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
Throw the tissue away after using it.
Keep rubber gloves, disinfectant wipes, spray, and hand sanitizer in your car or bag.
Bring wipes for your workplace and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at regular intervals.
Take your temperature regularly and get tested periodically if you are at risk.
Carry your own pen or pencil
Regularly wipe down cell phones, tablets, and computers.
Do your best to refrain from touching anything without hand sanitizing before and after. This includes mics, instruments, lounge tables, refrigerator handles, door handles, headphones, amps, cables, cases, gear bags, pedals, pens (bring your own), paperwork, paper clips, etc. in the recording studio, on stage, or in vehicles to and from the job.
Musicians should wear masks—except singers, wind and brass players.
Bring your own microphone and cable.
No close seating throughout the venue and at the bar.
No dancing. Use the dance floor to keep a safe distance from the stage to the audience.
One act must leave the stage before the next comes on.
Stage, mics and cables must be sanitized between acts.
Wear a mask while passing the tip jar.
Use a Virtual Tip Jar or a similar app in addition to or instead of cash tips.
Consider using drum shield-style plexiglass in front of the stage (singers) and between and/or in front of winds and brass.
Before and after shows, if you normally interface with fans, refrain from touching them (handshakes, hugs, etc.). Explain it from the stage if you feel it is necessary.
Do not allow fans to touch the merchandise, if possible. Designate a single CD, book, t-shirt, etc. as a “store sample” and clean/disinfect before and after each show.
Wear gloves when handling cash and credit cards. Use contactless payment methods whenever possible.
Do not wear stage clothing from night to night without first washing them, preferably in hot water. If they cannot be washed, spray the clothing with a disinfectant spray.
Everyone in the studio and control room should wear a mask, not just the musicians.
Use disinfecting towelettes to wipe down studio equipment before and after use.
Common areas in facilities should be cleaned/sanitized regularly (e.g., light switches, surfaces, doorknobs, phones, water dispensers, coffee machines, cabinet and refrigerator handles, microwave buttons, ventilation grills, chairs and arm/back rests, etc.).
Studios should be cleaned/sanitized before and after each session, including the microphone, POP filters, music stands, and any other equipment the performer will come in contact with.
Vocalists, brass, and wind players should wear masks except when playing.
Everyone brings their own headphones.
No congregating in the control room (it helps to have speakers in the main room).
Six feet/two meters between players in a room—limit the number of musicians accordingly.
Twelve feet/3.6 meters between winds/brass, singers, and other musicians if in the same room.
Only individuals in isolation booths.
Winds and brass sections recorded separately, when possible (otherwise distanced as stated above).
No congregating in close groups.
No group photos.
I’m not doing ANY of that. I’d rather wait until all of this is over. I prefer to do other things for money because this isn’t fun; it dampens creativity, engenders fear and distrust, and is just flat out stupid.
I’ve written to express my frustration and disgust with our profession being deemed nonessential over and over again. I’ve never felt less valued and so disrespected as a musician as I do now. I want to know, does the government not care if artists disappear into thin air? Is anyone in the music biz willing to speak out against this madness? Never-ending lockdowns are crippling our livelihoods, and these bizarre restrictions are destroying what fun is left in music creation today.
I’ve decided not to take any restricted playing opportunities until COVID craziness has died down. I’ve had enough, and I sure won’t subject myself to these rules. We’re not making music anymore; we’re merely following orders. Most of these codes are mandated by someone in government who has no concept of how musical ensembles operate. The CDC is not God. They sure aren’t business people, and they are horrible central planners. They don’t know the music business, nor do they know what they are doing. The CDC actually stands for Can’t Decide Completely.
We seem to be living in two different realities. Some people choose to live their lives as human beings. Others seem to travel through life as a moral scold hunkered deep underground in a hermetically sealed bunker, tweeting their outrage at those who reject constant gloom and doom.
I choose life as a human being. I’ll wait to play again. We’ll go back to normal. If Sweden can, so can we.
Clayton Craddock is an independent thinker, father of two beautiful children in New York City. He is the drummer of the hit broadway musical Ain’t Too Proud. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from Howard University’s School of Business and is a 28 year veteran of the fast-paced New York City music scene. He has played drums in several hit broadway and off-broadway musicals, including “Tick, tick…BOOM!, Altar Boyz, Memphis The Musical, and Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar and Grill. Also, Clayton has worked on: Footloose, Motown, The Color Purple, Rent, Little Shop of Horrors, Evita, Cats, and Avenue Q.
It was exhausting just reading that list, never-mind going through it all in real life...
I’ve had several concerts and plays I was looking forward to cancelled due to Covid this year. I can’t imagine going another year... two... or more without being able to have them rescheduled, if at all. And that is only from my point of view as a fan. Being able to go to performances is such a big part of giving my life meaning, and watching live concerts at home isn’t the same.