The circuit breaker may be over, but staying home is still very much the norm in what's now known as Phase 1 of our transition into the new normal. So, yes, continue doing whatever you’ve been doing at home during CB — baking, YouTube workouts, or catching virtual concerts — to keep those spirits up.
Among these online gigs is Hear65 Sing Along SG, a digital karaoke series of concerts happening over four Saturdays, featuring a total of 16 local artists, including Tabitha Nauser, Joanna Dong, Charlie Lim, and Jeremy Monteiro. Each three-hour sesh is hosted by host-actress Munah Bagharib and the live performances come replete with onscreen lyrics so you can sing along during the virtual KTV session.
The Hear65 series is part of the #SGCultureAnywhere campaign, which is aimed at providing work opportunities for over 90 self-employed folks in the arts community who have suffered a huge hit to their income during the pandemic.
Jazz veteran Jeremy Monteiro tells 8Days.sg that his personal income has been halved during this period. “Like everyone, I’m also suffering from a significant loss of revenue for my private command Showtime Production and also personally. Showtime revenue will be down 75 to 80 per cent this year, and personal income is down 55 per cent,” he reveals. “Thankfully, I also have a job as Executive Director and Music Director at the Jazz Association (Singapore) and so from that, I can just manage to handle essential bills and things like groceries.”
Tabitha Nauser reveals that at least 85 to 90 per cent of work has been cancelled — these include live shows and performances at festivals. “The beginning of the CB was especially tough because no work was coming in and we didn’t necessarily have any marker of when things would be better,” says the pop and R&B songstress. “But recently, it’s been starting to look more positive. I’ve been booked for a little bit more gigs, and more enquiries are coming in, so I’ve been put at ease, slightly.”
Singer-actress Joanna Dong shares that her gigs were cancelled as early as February “because most of the singing engagements I had tended to be large-scale ones involving big crowds”. TV hosting work came to a “standstill soon after as well”, because that involved travel. “I suffered great anxiety, of course, as I had just started my own company Do Be Do Di in November last year,” she says.
“But I guess it also put me in a position to be more proactive about how I managed my own career,” Joanna adds. “I started to learn how to do live streams, and the week before [the circuit breaker] began, I debuted my weekly show called ‘Jie Jie Time’ (‘Elder Sister Time’).”
Pivoting has paid off for Joanna. “Whilst I earn no income from the live streams, they help me maintain my relationship with audiences, and also allow me to keep doing something I love, which goes very far in helping me cope emotionally,” says Joanna. “These free live streams have since paid off as I was soon engaged to do some paid streaming performances, no doubt in part because clients can see that I already have the technical ability to do so.”
While things haven’t been quite the same for the music industry, it doesn’t mean that things come to a standstill.
Says Jeremy: “It’s a horrible time for all, but I am grateful for the extra time to spend on my music and to learn and upgrade my skills in livestream production, video editing and audio production.”
He’s not the only one who has taken this time to hone his craft. Indie singer-songwriter Charlie Lim admits that shows have been his main source of income, “so I’ve definitely been affected”. “But at the same time, I do go through periods and cycles where I have to hole myself up and just work on new material, so this feeling is not unfamiliar. At the same time, I do a bit of writing and production work on the side for others, so I'm fortunate to have that to tide me through for a while.”
What do these homegrown artists do at home to stay sane during this time?