DisConcerted

On Sunday, March 22, at 8pm, the state of New York shut down, governor's orders. Here in the Big City, most stores are closed—even Starbucks, or at least the ones near me. In my neighborhood, up on Broadway, a grocery store is open, and a drugstore, a hardware store, and a couple of bodegas. Some bars and restaurants are open for takeout only, some advertising COCKTAILS TO GO in big black letters painted on bedsheets—New Orleans comes to NYC. (Meanwhile, New Orleans itself, also a coronavirus hotspot, apparently is desolate, the bars closed, a hard thing to picture.)

Here in the city, they've shut down the music venues: the Metropolitan Opera, the Village Vanguard, the 92nd Street Y, Carnegie Hall, the jazz club Smoke just down the street—all of them. I miss live music. But I've got my stereo, a fine record collection, and subscriptions to Qobuz and Tidal. My family is with me at home, all virus-free. We have food and toilet paper.

It's impossible to guess what the world will look like even a few weeks out, when this issue hits newsstands and mailboxes, let alone in a few years. As I write this, a week before this issue goes to press, US COVID-19 fatalities have surpassed 4000. That number will go much higher (footnote 1). Doctors say New York hospitals may be overwhelmed soon. There's already a satellite hospital in Central Park and a hospital ship in New York Harbor. They don't have enough ventilators or protective equipment—something medical personnel could count on even in west Africa during the Ebola plague.

Beyond its impact on life and health, this disease has had a profound economic impact. This morning, the government announced record unemployment claims—five times the previous record. Vast swaths of the population are in serious financial peril: cooks, waiters, pilots, flight attendants, many retail workers. In high-rent NYC, a missed paycheck could mean hunger and homelessness for waiters, bartenders, store clerks.

At a time like this, anything I write risks seeming trite, or tone-deaf, or worse. It may someday seem strange that we kept publishing a magazine about music and expensive electronics when the world was on fire. But Stereophile remains relevant: What could be better suited to times such as these than a magazine about staying at home and listening to music? This hobby provides a release. Music offers solace. We'll keep doing what we do. Let history render its verdict.

Operationally, we're fine. Stereophile's operations are mostly immune to the kinds of problems many workers face. Not entirely, because audio companies are not immune. In the short term, as manufacturers go dark to wait out the crisis, review samples will become harder to obtain. Yet, those companies are resourceful—most of them anyway—and so are we, and since we work a few months ahead, we'll be okay. And if the supply of review components is throttled, we'll substitute other kinds of articles. It'll be good, I promise.

One thing I'm sure of: When the virus and the resulting economic havoc have begun to subside, Stereophile will still be here, doing whatever we can to support our readers, this hobby, and this industry.

In difficult times, it helps to think about others. One hard-hit group—one dear to our hearts—is the people who make the music we love. These days, musicians earn most of their money from live performances, and as I already wrote, the venues are shut down. Apparently, nobody's recording music now, either: "I really don't know of any [recording sessions] that are going on," recording engineer Jim Anderson, who records Patricia Barber and many others, wrote to me in a recent email. (Studio folks have been affected too, of course.)

How can we give back—how can we help musicians? If you have tickets to a canceled concert or concert series, don't take the refund. Donate it back. Some venues are using such donations to pay musicians to perform to empty auditoriums, streaming concerts online while soliciting donations for musician relief. The Americana Highways "Live Music from the Quarantine" series is one example; Google it, enjoy it, give. We've posted a list of live-stream concert series online.

If there's a particular musician you care about—not Bruce or Bono but someone who's likely to be struggling—track them down on the Internet or social media. Many have PayPal or Venmo accounts you can transfer money into.

When I wrote this, Amazon had stopped filling record and CD orders—but you can still buy music online. The big vinyl-focused stores, including the ones that advertise in Stereophile, are still filling orders: Trust me, I've done the experiment. Many brick-and-mortar record stores are filling Internet orders; your order improves the odds that they'll open back up when this is all over. Discogs is still running, providing an online platform for small retailers. And while you're shopping, maybe pull the trigger on that new amplifier, or turntable, or phono cartridge you've been considering; if this plague shows anything, it's that we only live once.

Downloads help musicians, too, and with downloads there's no risk of infection. If you haven't explored Bandcamp yet, this is a good time to do it: Every genre is represented, from acid to zydeco, and many of the musicians are on the economic margins and so need your help. You can listen before you buy. Bandcamp downloads are cheap, but you're invited to pay more than the minimum. So, find an artist or 12 who look interesting, take a chance on some new music, and pay generously.

Finally, contribute to a musician-relief fund. We've posted a list of such programs online.—Jim Austin


Footnote 1: Daily updated statistics on COVID-19 infections, recoveries, and deaths, broken down by country and US states, can be found here.—Ed.

COMMENTS
jeffhenning's picture

One serious, one not (as in not important):

• A hundred years ago when the country was being ravaged by the Spanish Flu, I'd imagine that people didn't know how the world would get back to normal, but it did eventually. Here's hoping that we humans don't decide to have something like WW1 following this.

• Seeing that empty road makes me think that this might be a great time to hit the highway and go for a personal best on my sport bike. Can a BMW K1300S really do better than 170mph?

Jack L's picture

Hi

Just last weekend, 2 young brothers, one only 19, borrowed their dad's Mercedes, sped 308KM/hour = 191.38mph on our city's main highway limited to only max 120Km/h= 75mph. Nearly 3 times the legal max speed !!!!

Before long, the speedy car was spotted & pulled over, end up suspending
the car for 1 week & heavy fines.

Luckily those 2 young men were safe.

Jack L.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

In Canada they can only do 191.38 Mph ...... Here in the US we can do better than 200 Mph ;-) ......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

As of today May 12, 2020, several states have opened/opening for business ...... Financial markets have already recovered quite a bit from their lows ...... America is gonna make a great come-back ...... 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself' :-) ........

mmole's picture

Well yes that and of course the virus itself which can strike you even though you're not afraid. FDR actually had a crisis that could be solved through government jobs programs and of course the greatest jobs program of all, World War II. Covid-19 presents a much thornier problem. I do not envy the President and the tough choices he has made and will have to make in the future.

Stay safe BH and everyone else.

Jack L's picture

Hi

Don't laugh so soon, pal.

You are lucky you & yr family are not YET infected. But who knows ??

Just in the worst case your loved one(s) died of this virus like so many Americans out there, you won't talk like this !

Jack L

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I'm not minimizing the impact of this virus causing infections and deaths ...... I was mainly referencing to the economic impact of shutting down the economy and the US unemployment of more than 33 million American people ........

Jack L's picture

HI

Unlike economy which will eventually come back, human lives once passed away, will never come back !

Which should take the first priority !

Jack L

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It is a balancing act ..... It is a difficult situation for the people in the authority, who make those decisions ...... Economies will collapse, if there is prolonged shut-down ....... Many of the European countries which are affected by the virus are opening their economies, including Italy ......

jmsent's picture

Ok then, what is your suggestion? Just accept the additional infections and deaths for the sake of the economy? No thanks. We just heard from the top medical experts in this country expressing deep concern about reopening too early. This country is doing a terrible job of dealing with this virus. As demonstrated by countries like South Korea (and quite a few others) the only way to deal with where we are now is through massive testing, contact tracing, and quarantine of infected people. Why isn't that happening?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Our country US is the third largest country in the world, after Russia and Canada ...... US is more than 3.7 million squire miles, land area ........ There are several states, where the virus infection rates and death rates are very low ...... Wyoming, the Dakotas, Alaska, Montana are some examples ........ Why should they go through prolonged economic shut-down? ...... Those medical experts are not economic experts ........ Some people are already disputing those medical experts' opinions .......

Jack L's picture

.....for business ." quoted Haranath.

The pandemic is far far from over yet.

Too early to open any non-essential businesses! Unless those opening states don't care more & more virus fatalities.

Glad New York state, which has been hit hardest since the virus outbreak, still takes extreme precaution to take the next step.

Should Donald Trump take this virus much much seriously by taking nation-wide lockdown timely, there would not be so much fatality & infection like today. Till today, Trump is at a loss of what should be done to save more lives of his fellow Americans! He should be held 100% accountable. He is still fancying how to get re-elected for his second term of presidency.

Just imagine your loved one(s) died of this deadly virus !!!!!

Don't let politics come before human lives, Amen!

Jack L
Canada

PS: my city is under lockdown for any non-essential busiess till next month! A good measure to save lives.

JHL's picture

Said you after the most ill-informed, poorly-reasoned political screeds yet to plague this site.

srdykes's picture
jimtavegia's picture

We can never forget the toll this pandemic has taken on many around the world, and it did not have to be this devastating if honesty was the rule of the day. Many will not fully recover from this.

After watching some Youtube videos of the 1918 pandemic we were better prepared for this than they were in 1918, especially soldiers. That was a sad time for sure.

Jack L's picture

.... . of the day." quoted jimtavegia.

Indeed. We all wish China was honest enough to announce to the world outbreak of this deadly disease dated back very beginning of Oct last year.

Intentionally covering up this deadly disease from the world, China even bribed WHO to downplay the seriousness of the 'epidemic' in order to keep its status of world's OEM. Econoomy always comes first with fatality of hundreds of thousands of its own people due to the deadly disease.

While locking down the border cities with Russia due to a new huge outbreak of the pandemic there, China opens up the Disneyland in Shanghai last weekend to the public, showing off the world it has killed the pandemic & its people now return to their normal social life!!

So China is now the 'safest' venue in the world for new investments.

What 'honesty' !?

Jack L

Anton's picture

Perhaps I can guess the color of your hat?

;-D

Jack L's picture

Hi

Sorry, I hate hats.

Jack L

supamark's picture

That's the main problem for the USA, along with a VERY vocal, gullible, and ill informed portion of the US population.

Competence, it matters. A lot.

PS - China isn't the problem - we (the USA) had scientists embedded in their health services until last year and a whole team dedicated to this sort of thing at the NSA until a couple years ago - think about it. If you thought an authoritarian regime would be forthcoming... there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you when this is finally over. They didn't "bribe" anyone, they simply acted like the Soviets in April 1986. PRC "honesty" would have made zero difference in the US response and current situation because of one number - 45.

barrows's picture

The audio company I work with is suffering, sales are way down, but our overhead is low and we will survive. I would suggest to anyone who is not financially strapped at this time, it is a great time to make some system upgrades, and buy some audio gear. Also, as Jim A. clearly points out, do what you can to help support your favorite musicians (the lesser known ones who really need help now).
Well, there once was the Black Plague, and out of it emerged the Renaissance... I am hopeful, that just perhaps, this "pause" gives us a moment to think about what is really important, and maybe, if enough people do this, we come out of this in a better way. I have heard way too many stories of doom and gloom, no more live music, the demise of the Arts, and I am suggesting the opposite, that at this time we realize how important these things are, and that we all come together to form an explosion of Art and Music and Culture, and Humanitarian advance after this virus subsides a bit. One must Hope...

AaronGarrett's picture

The venerable label Arhoolie is doing a terrific thing presenting concerts and matching donations. Here's the wonderful Morales Sisters who sound just lovely through my computer.

https://arhoolie.org/working-from-home-presents-the-morales-sisters/

ok's picture

..all the time.

johnnythunder's picture

you'll be a moron forever.

supamark's picture

but that was both on point *and* a wicked burn. Well done.
:)

ok's picture

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufT_NO-9CQU

davip's picture

When I see an empty road like that pictured I think principally of the breathing-space our planet is getting from the species that treats that planet like a toilet. If all it makes others think of is further self-indulgence then go right-ahead and test that speed-limit and remove another vector from the pool. We have FAR more to fear than "...fear itself" and that people cannot wait to get back to business-as-usual rather than taking stock and learning how to prepare-for (and preferably avoid, by changed behaviour) environmental calamity is the most depressing aspect of this pandemic. You might take exception to the 'moron' who offered that people "die all the time", but his comment hides a greater truth: less than 1 6,000th of the world's population has so far died from this disease. That is far less than the number this will become as the foolish rush back to the status quo in the suggested great "comeback" and is as nothing compared to the billions who will die when that planetary toilet breaks.

As I look out of my window as I write this at the idiots of the local-authority busy strimming grass during a time of catastrophe and read the words here of greater fools who see this as further opportunity to burn-up a little bit more of today's cleaner air I see members of a different and seemingly infinitely-dense species who are the real problem -- not the Coronavirus.

Anton's picture

Put a drum kit in the foreground you have an album cover!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Foreigner album cover 'No End in Sight', looks almost similar :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Nickelback album cover 'All the Right Reasons', also looks somewhat similar :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Hopefully this virus problem will be over soon, so that we won't be 'Running on Empty' :-) ......

Jim Austin's picture

The article itself is a little off the topic of audio, so I'm being permissive as to what comments are allowed--but please leave the insults at the door.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

germay0653's picture

My two cents in trying to look at the situation logically based on statistics. As of the afternoon on 5/12/2020 here are some facts.

Globally
Total Population = 7,800,000,000
Total Infected = 4,178,156
Total Deaths = 286,353
% of Population Infected = 0.0536%
% of Population Deaths = 0.0037%
% of Infected Deaths (Mortality Rate) = 6.8536%

USA (Continental)
Total Population = 331,318,992
Total Infected = 1,381,913
Total Deaths = 81,751
% of Population Infected: 0.4171%
% of Population Deaths: 0.0247%
% of Infected Deaths (Mortality Rate): 5.9158%

No death is ever desired and the mortality rate is higher than most for these types of infections but the percentages of infected and, specifically, deaths is suspect, meaning they could be even lower, as there is speculation that Doctors and Hospitals are be incentivized, monetarily, to code deaths as COVID-19 regarding the cause, even if there were other underlying issues that may have played a larger part in the cause of death.

Couple that with the how the media is reporting, basically fear mongering, the pandemic and here we are. Worst case, so far, is less than one half of one percent for deaths, of the total population, in the USA and worldwide.

This has brought the global economy to a standstill. Not sure how to interpret the reactions to the statistics but it sure makes one wonder about the motivations of those so called "experts" guiding us during this crisis. It's definitely food for thought. Why haven't more "experts" been asked to contribute their findings and opinions as opposed to relying on the few that have been consulted so far. These "experts" also view it through a medical lens only. They do not have expertise to evaluate the psychological and economic impacts this is having on the population.

germay0653's picture

I was composing while you posted and didn't see the the Rein it in message.

Jim Austin's picture

You didn't insult anyone so it's OK.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

volvic's picture

Academy Records was an essential service so I could go and support them, the same for Princeton Record Exchange. In the meantime, we order records on-line and hope this ends and soon while paying our respects to those who needlessly succumbed to this tragedy.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

In America, more than 33,000,000 people are currently unemployed because of the shut-down of the economy ........ The unemployment rate currently is 14.5% ....... Most of those people want to get back to work ....... They want to put food on the table and feed their families ...... They want to pay their rent/mortgage ........

JRT's picture

Bogolu Haranath, you are not applying properly chosen percentages against properly chosen population subset.

The unemployment figures do not well represent a percentage of working age population that are not working. Only roughly 1/2 of the total population is both of working age and not in the military or institutionalized (jails, prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.), and only 3/5 of that 1/2 were participating in the labor market last month, 3/10 of the total population. So of the total population, roughly 7/10 were not employed last month, and that likely worsened this month.

In April 2020, the US population was 330M, while the US Labor Force Population was 160M; and of that 160M, the US Labor Force Participation Rate was 60.2%.

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/participationrate.asp

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CIVPART

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CLF16OV

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I was quoting from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the month of April, 2020 ......... Check Google :-) ..........

JRT's picture

Wrong venue for this topic

MFK's picture

This article has had almost 13 million views. Reassuring about shopping and outdoor interactions but bad news re: indoor environments for prolonged periods. After reading it our family has decided that hair salons, restaurants, aircraft etc. are simply not on until there is a vaccine, treatment, cure or herd immunity. I encourage readers to be sensible, patient, kind and to listen closely to their public health officials. Writing from Vancouver where the provincial government has done a wonderful job. Best wishes to everyone.
https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them

Anton's picture

I 'enjoyed' the great recession.

Now, my kids can tell future generations that they suffered through the Great Inconvenience.

JA2's idea to find ways to support musical artists is great.

tonykaz's picture

We are starting to hit the rough.

Air Transportation Industry got knocked out early in the 1st Round.

Univ. of Chicago Economics Dept. is projecting 25% of our Un-Employed will remain unemployed.

This Crash will take a Decade for us ( citizens ) to rebound, just like every other Crash. The 1%ers. will still have Budgets for pricy Mono Amps and Vivaldi stuff.

10 years from now we will be entering the Full-On 21st Century, who can extrapolate us to that New World? ( I'm excited to live to see it )

Institutions like Stereophile will remain our Gibraltar, maybe even our Lighthouse, guiding us to an emotional Safe Harbor, keeping Life fresh and interesting while all hell is breaking loose on the other side of the Front Doors.

As long as we have our Mail Carrier and Postage, we'll survive, our skilled minds will continue building a fascinating future.

We have one hell of a Story to tell.

Tony in Venice

Anton's picture

My blue canary lives in the listening room of my birdhouse plugged in to the light switch nearest my audio gear...I upgraded to the blue canary that also acts as a line noise filter that enhances my Hi Fi.

Adding more blue canaries will improve your sound even more!

They Might Be Giants would be proud.

This will all pass, but it's certainly been a bit of a bummer seeing so many people go full snowflake blizzard over being asked to simply be polite for 8 weeks.

Allen Fant's picture

Nice article and photo- JA2.
hang in there as NYC will not stay closed too much longer.

volvic's picture

But for some reason, alternate side parking is back on come Monday. Go figure!! Hang in there Academy & Princeton Records, not much longer now.

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