What’s next for the San Diego music scene?
by BART MENDOZA
Published - 03/27/20 - 12:00 PM | 3451 views | 3 3 comments | 57 57 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Singer-songwriter Lauren Leigh Martin.
Singer-songwriter Lauren Leigh Martin.
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It’s been a tough year for pretty much everyone on the planet, but that goes especially for California-based musicians. The year started with controversy over the new AB5 contract worker law, followed by the current coronavirus crisis closing venues and record stores, when Amazon announced they were not accepting shipments of new music through at least April 5.

Meanwhile, the most recent stay at home order has resulted in the shuttering of recording and rehearsal studios. Despite the adversity, San Diego’s music community is coming together and remaining overall positive.

“The situation has changed pretty much every aspect of my life, personally and professionally,” said Brian Witkin, CEO of Point Loma-based music label, Pacific Records (pacificrecords.com). “My wife and I are adjusting to both of us working from home while simultaneously caring for our young son. It’s been challenging but also really nice spending more time together.”

He notes the huge shift in everyone’s lives at the moment. “In the music business, everything’s changed overnight, and nobody knows what’s going to happen,” he remarked. “With all the show cancellations and tour postponements, most of Pacific Record’s artists have completely lost their primary source of income.

“This is heartbreaking and even though the label is not a booking agency, we make a good portion of our revenue from live shows too… so we’re all taking a big hit.” The label is choosing to be as proactive as possible rather than waiting for the storm to blow over. “Even though artists can’t perform live, the quarantine doesn’t prevent us from writing or recording from home and, of course, releasing music,” Witkin said.

Plans are to push up our street dates. “We’re asking our artists if they have any unreleased singles they want to add to our calendar and helping create content anyway possible. We’re calling it a ‘release blitz’ and our internal goal is to have at least one release (album or single) per week until this blows over. We’re also working on putting out a compilation consisting of multiple Pacific Records artists with the proceeds going to charity.”

Tongue in cheek rockers, The Spice Pistols (spicepistols.com) were due to start their first national tour next month opening for punk legends, Agent Orange, but that has now been postponed until late summer.

“Gigs being canceled or postponed has been disappointing,” said bassist Spike Mike Muellenberg. “But we tend to shift gears quickly as a band. We’re refocusing on other goals with the band.”

One such goal is to help now out of work bar staff at the venues they frequent. “We’re putting together “locked bar streaming gigs,” Muellenberg said. “We call these the Quarantine Relief Concert Series. These are live-streamed shows we do to help generate funds to try and compensate the bar staff who’ve lost work. We do this for free but do promote our online merch sales.”

Meanwhile, singer-songwriter Lauren Leigh Martin (laurenleighmusic.com) points out musicians are often used to things being rough. “Being a self-employed musician and mom of a special needs kid, I went from gigging four times a week on average to everything on my books being canceled,” she said. “I’ve spent most of the last 6 years struggling financially, as you do when you work hard at anything in the arts, so being broke doesn’t scare me anymore.”

She considers other issues besides the monetary. “Not being able to be with my band, or to perform has done a number on my mental health,” Martin said. “Performing and creating are coping mechanisms and for lots of us, not having that outlet will drive us mad. I envy my friends who have home studios right now.”

While she waits for things to improve she will continue to create. “I’ve written two songs in the last week, picked up the guitar again and have been planning live streams as a way to engage a new audience with nothing else to do and to attempt to solicit virtual tips to help offset some of the financial stress,” Martin said.

For now, she is happy to just be able to keep going. “I’m releasing an EP and it will be out earlier than planned because I think it should be out there now,” Martin commented. “There’s very little I can do to help others right now, but I can sing and I can give you music and so that’s going to be my part,” she said.

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March 27, 2020
As always, great article Bart! With all bars, public venues and clubs closed, the loss of jobs have affected everyone from bartenders, waitstaff to the music and entertainment. With the cancellation of March gigs The Sonoma Film Festival featuring Suzi Quatro’s new documentary “Suzi Q” was postponed until a later date. I was slated to sing with Suzi and Cherie Currie. Also, Howard Blanks “The Outsiders” just finished a Video promo and well on our way to a full summer of shows is now on the back burner. Church events and worship services are cancelled which is a consistent income for my husband and me as well as hundreds of SD musicians. All rotating club dates gone! I picked up an unexpected recording client in Michigan, singing on a new “Pivotal Awakening” song and we are recording the vocal parts in our home studio and will send the tracks back to their studio! Many musicians are performing Facebook live concerts to stir up income via Venmo and PayPal and that’s clogging the FB server so many are getting shut out! The music scene is completely dismantled until we are given the “all clear” from CoV19. And I am concerned that people may be hesitant to go back out and mingle. I have a feeling this is going to take some time for the music scene to recover.
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