Closed nightclubs, limited opening hours of bars, cancelled wedding receptions, concerts and parties. “We can only sit and despair,” say the musicians, especially those who live off live music.
Since the state of emergency was lifted, the situation for the music industry in Serbia started slowly to change for better at the beginning of May. However, in late June, after the elections, everything reverted to the old situation and public facilities such as bars, nightclubs and concert venues are closed again or either have limited opening hours.
At the beginning of July, most towns in Serbia banned public gatherings such as wedding receptions and concerts, which made a significant part of income for musicians. Wedding receptions, in particular, were seen as a hotbed of coronavirus infection.
The first half of the year was terrible for musicians and the future prospects look even bleaker.
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Dušan Golubović, president of the Independent Union of Artists, says that musicians carry a heavy burden, because if they are not allowed to work, they have no income whatsoever.
“Music industry shares the same destiny as the catering sector. The situation is very bad. After the lifting of the state of emergency, we hoped that the season could finally start, but now the epidemic has intensified again and we don’t know what we will do and how to proceed,” says Golubović.
Some of the most popular restaurants in Belgrade, as well as those in smaller towns, consider live music as an indispensable part of their business.
“A large part of catering depends on whether or not they have a music programme,” says Golubović.
After the lifting of the state of emergency in May, which is a traditional month for weddings, the music industry was on its way to recovery because people were desperate for entertainment and spending time outside.
“Then they (catering facilities) closed again. Many people earn their living only from music. Since many musicians have lost their livelihoods, it would be fair for them to get the help from the state. We are talking about the musicians who are registered as such, and not those musicians who have their own companies or are employed somewhere, and who view music as a supplemental source of income. Only a small percentage of musicians we see in the media earn a good deal of many, and many of them are not considered even true artists,’ says Golubović.
Radomir Nikolić, bassist of the famous Belgrade band Blah Blah says that the state of emergency was very detrimental to musicians because they did not work at all.
“Every band in the city has a base, an office, and makes more money at private celebrations. If there’s no party, there’s no money. Musicians don’t have sick leave or vacation. There is no association that will pay, say, 30% of your salary until you can find work,” he explains.
“At this moment, we are quiet and waiting. We have booked several concerts abroad. We had already bought plane tickets, the equipment was ready for transport but everything was postponed because the infection is everywhere,” says Nikolić.
According to him, this situation is a big problem for the music industry because “99% of musicians make a living by playing music live,” he concludes.
This post is also available in: Italiano