Local musician discusses challenges caused by ongoing pandemic


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Some live music venues have resumed concerts with restricted capacity, but scientists don’t expect tours or bigger events to return for a while, at least. One local artist said she’s optimistic about the future and is taking steps to pay her bills until then.

Ashtyn Barbaree is an up-and-coming Arkansas musician who plays a unique style.

“I would call it Americana music,” Barbaree said.

COVID-19’s had a severe impact on artists who rely on gigs to make the bulk of their money. Barbaree said canceled shows resulted in a loss of revenue, and even venues that secured PPP loans didn’t have to pay her a cancelation fee.

“I get some royalties, but I don’t have too many songs out digitally, so that’s not a steady thing I can live on,” Barbaree said.

Since the pandemic started, Barbaree turned to online music classes to earn some extra money.

“I went to teach virtual songwriting and ukulele and guitar,” Barbaree said.

David Sorto is an economist at the University of Arkansas. He said live music venues have turned to digital events and other non-traditional measures to earn money during the pandemic. This hasn’t been enough to keep them comfortably operational.

“The whole appeal of those types of attractions is the fact you go in person, and you experience it in person,” Sorto said.

These venues have few options for how to proceed until COVID-19 cases significantly decrease.

“Put on performances at reduced capacity, but lot of your costs remain the same, or just continue abstaining from operations,” Sorto said.

Barbaree wrote a song called “Rhythm of the Road” that includes lyrics that describe the challenges faced by full-time artists, something she knows quite well.

“I talk to musicians every day who are like, ‘I don’t think I can keep doing this,'” Barbaree said.

Despite the challenges the pandemic poses, Barbaree’s used the time to record a new album that’ll be out in the spring, and she’s started playing for smaller crowds again. Lately, she said she’s had a positive outlook on the future. The digital elements she’s incorporated will continue after the pandemic ends, and she said she’s learned lessons from this period that’ll apply for the rest of her life.

“It’s put me in a unique position that I’m thankful for,” Barbaree said.

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