Relations between China and the West are off to a rocky start in 2021. Observers watching China and the U.S. trade accusations in Alaska, and Europe and China trade sanctions days later can be forgiven for a cold feeling in the pit of their stomach. Beijing’s tolerance for economic risk in the service of nationalism has rarely looked higher.
A significant conflict between the U.S. and China in East Asia is still unlikely, but it can no longer be ruled out as an implausible tail risk. Companies need to start considering what that could mean. And governments need to find mutually acceptable ways to take the temperature down if they want regular business to remain possible.
The United Nations has backtracked on a pact with the Chinese telecommunications giant Tencent Holdings to provide videoconferencing and text services for the international organization’s 75th anniversary, following backlash from U.S. officials and lawmakers as well as human rights groups. Critics claim the arrangement rewards a company that has enabled Beijing’s digital surveillance efforts and stifled free speech on the internet in China.
Late last month, the U.N. sparked a political firestorm when it announced plans to enlist the help of the Chinese social media and video game giant to serve as a platform for an online discussion with millions of netizens around the world on the future of the U.N. in the run-up to its 75th anniversary observance. Over the following weeks, U.S. lawmakers and human rights advocates pressed the U.N. to ditch the deal, saying it would tarnish the international organization’s reputation as a champion of free expression and human rights.
MusicCanada commissioned an outstanding survey by Abacus Data using serious data-driven methodology to credibly measure the Canadian public’s experience with the COVID shut down of live music and expectation for reopening. Instead of glorified “Who’s Hot”-level casual polls you see cropping up here and there, The Locked-Down Blues: Canadians, Live Music and the Pandemic sets the gold standard for the kind of data-driven serious national opinion study that policy makers can actually use to plan how to get out of this corner.
The study measures many different factors, including the more intangible questions of what trust level fans will require before they come back to live music. Regardless of what distancing or contamination standards are imposed, none of that matters much if the fans don’t trust it enough to come out to hear live music in cities like Toronto and Austin.
For example, the study found this reaction:
DESPITE WANTING TO GO, CANADIANS, EVEN THOSE WHO LOVE LIVE MUSIC, SAY THEY WILL BE RELUCTANT TO GO BACK TO LIVE MUSIC EVENTS BEFORE A VACCINE FOR COVID IS FOUND.
Even if they are permitted to go to live music events, many Canadians, including those who love live music the most, will be reluctant to return for some time.
We asked respondents how soon they will feel comfortable enough doing several activities, once physical distancing restrictions are lifted. In almost all cases, fewer than 40% said they would feel comfortable in a few months or less. For most, the time horizon was much longer with many saying they may never feel comfortable again.
For example, 43% said it would take six months or more before they would feel comfortable going to a music festival or a concert in a large venue. Another quarter said they may never feel comfortable going to those types of events again.
I find it hard to believe that there’s going to be an appreciable geographical distinction between Canada and any other country on these issues. But this study provides a gold standard for other studies in other countries, all of which should be done and done using a robust and defendable methodology.
So let’s be clear–this study is giving you the hard truth. It is not some Chamber of Commerce hoorah or conclusion-driven clap trap. It also tells us that the idea that you can just turn the lights back on and people will flock to the clubs may be looking at the wrong ball. It has serious implications for the entire music industry across all genres.
But–it especially has serious implications for cities like Austin. Given that the City of Austin commissioned the Austin Music Census in 2015, another robust data-driven study that produced unwelcome dire conclusions, it is astonishing that the blinking red light in the Census was completely ignored. Not only were Austin musicians poorer than the City seemed to think they were, the entire local ecosystem was essentially dependent on live music. For example, streaming was a negligible source of revenue for Austin musicians–think maybe someone would have wanted to look into that issue as a matter of industrial strategy? And is there anything about the “Live Music Capitol of the World” that gives you a clue that maybe you might want to start thinking about why all the eggs were in that basket? As Mark Twain said, if you’re going put all your eggs in one basket, watch that basket. Or at least don’t ignore it.
Since the City did such a thorough job of ignoring the Census for so long, I wonder if they’re going to be able to figure out how to solve the current crisis. Or if maybe somebody actually would like Austin to turn into just another college town with a Google campus, self-driving cars busily scraping rider data while stacked up on I-35 and Uber Eats Your Soul.
We can be grateful to Music Canada for commissioning this study and getting it out at the perfect time for policy makers to have some meaningful data driven reality conducted in a manner that could stand up to peer review. And show the world the gold standard for how to develop policies that actually solve a problem because you better know what the problem is you want to solve.
Leaders from the cluster of live music venues along Red River Street have asked the city to dedicate $35 million to purchase venue properties in the area, as part of a larger menu of programs and spending to preserve those businesses in the face of prolonged closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday the Red River Cultural District delivered a six-page policy proposal to members of City Council asking for music venues to be considered for possible immediate relief using money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Other recommendations included streamlined permitting for music venues, completion of long-planned streetscape improvements and improved services for the large homeless population located near the district.
The proposal comes as city staffers are assembling an initial framework for how best to use the $170.8 million the city has available from the CARES Act, which directs recipient governments to use the funds for a combination of emergency response, public health and economic recovery needs.
Big tech companies want to profit from COVID-19 by making quarantine permanent, says @NaomiAKlein. They envision "a new paradigm where the privileged classes who are able to isolate themselves basically get everything … either delivered through digital streaming or by drone." pic.twitter.com/tT8Vc4uAWW