Artists in isolation finding new ways of connecting with audiences amid coronavirus pandemic


Tasmanian-bred musician Maddy Jane has been anticipating the release of her debut album for well over a year.

But she never could have predicted that when it finally dropped, she’d be in isolation and her launch concert would be performed via YouTube from her home in Wollongong.

“It was super weird because it was the first time I’ve played songs off the album somewhat live,” she said.

“But it’s such a good thing because it really does keep that connectivity because you see first-hand people commenting about the response that they’re having in that moment.”

The 25-year-old musician from Bruny Island, who’s played at festivals across Australia and supported the Australian tours of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Harry Styles, said she initially considered pushing the launch date of her album.

“Obviously a lot of musos have chosen to postpone releases, which I completely understand. I mean we don’t know when we’re going to get overseas or when we’re going to be able to get across those borders,” she said.

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“But I’ve been working on this [record] for a year or so now and we were ready to go and I wanted to get the music out.

“We just thought, people can still listen to music and it still gives that notion that things are still happening and things will happen after this.”

Maddy Jane believes the enforced isolation has deeply affected many creative people.(Facebook: Maddy Jane)

Reflecting back on the release of her album Not All Bad Or Good, Maddy believes it has helped her to cope with the new reality.

“At the start of isolation, I wasn’t feeling creative. I was feeling quite confused and not really knowing what was going to happen and I feel like a lot of creatives have felt like that,” she said.

“I definitely would’ve been struggling a lot more [without the record] and I think that’s an important thing, for creatives to keep things happening and have those things to look forward to.”

But she said releasing the record is “not just about the musos”.

“It’s crazy, the response already and even in this madness, everyone’s wanting those things to connect to.”

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Music Tasmania chief executive Laura Harper said musicians across the country were finding new ways to connect with people.

“It’s not just a job. It’s such an integral part of their identities as people, as artists to actually create and to actually share what they create. I think it’s really important for their mental health,” she said.

“That’s so important not only for artists but also for audiences and people who are in isolation to feel connected to their community.”

She said she’d heard from lots of artists who were using the time to make and write new music.

“[They’re] really thinking about what they do in a different way and having the time to do that. I think that’s really valuable,” she said.

But she said whilst live streaming or online arts shows may offer connection and purpose, they do not put money in the bank.

“We need to think about how we do remunerate music and arts and how we pay for it. Yes, live streaming is amazing but how do we make sure people are being properly paid for it?”

Collating memories from the pandemic

Libraries Tasmania and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery have partnered on a project to document people’s experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jacob Collings portrait.
After losing work due to the pandemic, Jacob Collings has used his time creatively.(Supplied: Jacob Collings)

The two organisations will collect photographs, writing and hard copy items such as artists’ diaries and care packages in the hopes of creating a collective memory.

After losing all his paid work, videographer and photographer Jacob Collings decided to use his time in isolation to explore how others were dealing with it.

“I think I was trying to figure out what [isolation] meant for me and as an artist, how I was going to respond,” he said.

“Was I just going to have time off or was I just going to continue working? All of my paid work has stopped, so it just opened up a bit chunk of space for me.”

What began as a simple photography project using his housemates has turned into a web series of zoom calls, named ‘Stories of Isolation’.

“It’s been really good for me to realise my own story through the interviews,” he said.

Collings said he had found whilst every person’s story has been unique, there have been common themes throughout.

“A lot of people are actually quite optimistic for the future. But I also think a lot of people are experiencing the same kind of grief,” he said.

For Collings, isolation has been about finding balance between his creative projects and taking a break.

“There’s always a positive light in creating,” he said.

“Whilst you shouldn’t put too much pressure on yourself, it’s definitely a time when creating is one of the best things we’ve got. It’s one of the things that’s been there for me.

“I think there’s inspiration all around at the moment because this is something that’s never happened. So this is quite an interesting experience. “

For Maddy Jane, the opportunity to rock out on stage again cannot come quick enough.

“We’re going to be just so grateful for everything.”

Digital portrait titled Lily by Jacob Collings
Digital portrait titled Lily, by Tasmanian Jacob Collings who is documenting COVID-19 in portraits and video.(Supplied: Jacob Collings)

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