As the Coronavirus pandemic turned the world on its head and forced us into a new reality of ‘social distancing’ from each other.
As we retreat home once again to stay safe, stay away from each other and wash our hands, the one constant piece of social glue that has kept us together, is music. It has become the expression of both sadness and joy as we watch scenes of both playing out over the past few months.
Back in March, we watched a French opera singer singing from her balcony to hundreds of onlookers. We saw the Italians, whom we had all pitied at the start of all this, belting out the Italian National anthem like it was the only thing that would keep them safe and sane at a time when there seem like little to look forward to.
As the race kicked off across the world to ‘flatten the curve’, the pressure intensified to find a vaccine, and the pleas from our healthcare workers to ‘Please, stay at home’ has intensified and understandably so.
Radio listening is stronger than ever.
As this new reality has unfolded, many simple changes emerged in our societies and in our homes. The return to radio listening is one. Radio listnership in Ireland has always been strong, but recent trends in audience interaction, along with much anecdotal evidence across the country, show that people tuning in more than ever from home since the start of this crisis.
The traditional listening schedule of morning and evening has all but disappeared as most people embrace a new routine working from home. This means that the once coveted position of ‘The Breakfast Show’ on radio has been upended, because there is no morning commute. People are now listening later in the day and into the evening.
Listeners are now interacting and engaging more with their station of choice and the request for ‘good music’ is always top of their agenda, having had their fill of news. They also want to hear from a presenter that can provide a sense of solidarity and escapism at the same time. For many, this is their portal to the outside world and they are desperate for a familiar voice and real time interaction with another human being.
Solidarity through music.
There is also something different about the way we are listening to music now. It is something that suddenly seems shared, somehow. When we listen to a song we have heard dozens, or even hundreds of times, we start to find a new meaning in the words. Words that fit in with this new reality. A song that reminds us of a different time that we remember now with even more fondness. It doesn’t seem to matter what genre it is, or whether it is joyous and upbeat (like Pharrell Williams ‘Happy’) or more melancholy (like the late, great Bill Withers and ‘Lean on Me’).
Music has provided more meaning for us than ever before, because we know that if we are listening to that song and those words, that someone, somewhere is listening too. And it’s likely that they are just as happy, or melancholic as we are.
Perhaps this weekend, we can dig out an album that we haven’t listened to in years and take ourselves back down memory lane. Music evokes memories more than anything else I can think of and nostalgia is no bad thing now. Because it is important for us to remind ourselves that ‘this too, shall pass’.