Music Features

Round Table: How Does Music Survive the Pandemic? (Featuring Amanda Palmer, Adam Doleac, and more)

Amanda Palmer, Adam Doleac, Caroline Romano, Luka Kerecin, and Olivia Castriota share the trials and tribulations of life as a musician in the wake of mass quarantine and social-isolation due to the novel coronavirus

Amanda Palmer, Caroline Romano, Luka Kerecin, Olivia Castriota, Adam Doleac

"I feel like a cross between a minister and a rock star..."

...reports punk singer and activist Amanda Palmer from isolation in New Zealand. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the music community has been in a frenzy of adaptation. Palmer, given her community-focused approach to music, has seen her usual skill-set suddenly become essential for thousands of performers. "So many artists are in need. I want to help them set up Patreon pages, and I want to make sure they feel safe asking for help. It's hard for artists to ask," explains the former Dresden Dolls lead singer and author of The Art of Asking, "I've been collecting people in emotional crisis on the internet since 2002. I'm right in my element. But, boy, does it feel strange."

Pivoting to crowdfunding may now be a saving grace for many acts. The overnight decimation of the live music economy, across all genres, has thrown a question mark over the income of countless performers. "Artists [don't make] money off digital streaming," clarifies Nashville-based country music singer Adam Doleac, "85% of [most artists'] income is live show pay and merchandise sales from those live shows. You're now taking 85% of an income, and it's gone for an undefined period of time."

"A lot of people don't realize how far 'not playing shows' trickles down. I got all these guys in my band that are no longer getting paid. They rely on that money, they've got families," the Sony/ATV signee continues, "It's whole teams that have been shut down. That's been the hardest part, figuring out how to keep those guys comfortable as we work out how to get through this time."

While signed acts and their support systems are all feeling the squeeze in the wake of the COVID crisis, how do smaller up-and-coming acts fare? "I've canceled shows with Sofar Sounds, live recording sessions with LeestaVall, and planning my summer tour has been put on pause," lists Olivia Castriota, a New York-based R&B singer. "As an independent artist I also finance everything myself [through side jobs]. In a matter of days, all of my Airbnb guests for the next eight weeks canceled and all Bars and Restaurants in NYC went to take out only, so... welcome to unemployment."

"Without people working and having any significant income all around the world, art and music will suffer tremendously," adds Luka Kerecin, Croatian lead singer of prog-metal band Wings Denied and lecturer and marketing specialist at the United POP Academy. "I was supposed to be in the U.S. in March to play with Wings Denied at SXSW... but that did not happen due to corona." Whilst the recent broadening of unemployment benefits will hopefully help smaller acts in the US, the long term future is still uncertain, especially given the widely-reported difficulties many have had with signing up for unemployment benefits. Festival season, a crucial time for smaller acts, has been all but snuffed out entirely, with name-brand events across the globe canceling or rescheduling and younger festivals facing possible extinction.

However, social distancing has led to the now near-ubiquity of the Facebook/Instagram/Zoom live show. These formerly niche elements in the artist's promotional toolkit have now become a primary method of audience engagement. "I did a show on Instagram last night, [and] we played for more people than we would have played for at the actual show," enthuses Adam Doleac, "I think 45,000 people signed on to watch."

There are also issues related to the almost entirely digital marketplace we now find ourselves in, as pop-artist Caroline Romano points out. "I don't want people to lose the need for live shows," she cautions, "I'm afraid the number of Instagram and TikTok followers an artist has is going to become more important than ever because social media is the only way artists can get discovered right now." With online engagement already becoming a dominant factor in musician's lives (certain managers, bookers, publications, and labels will refuse to even consider talent without a certain baseline level of social media traction), live music was one of the last true equalizing factors.

These sentiments are echoed by Kerecin. "For my band, Wings Denied, which exists in the more niche genre of prog rock and metal, live shows are the number one way to connect with fans," he details, "Other more commercially friendly genres have it a little easier as they can always pull through with sponsors, radio play, etc. but not being able to play and tour at this moment is a massive challenge for us."

Established artists are also not immune to the toll of the COVID fallout, as Doleac points out. "Bigger acts, Kenny Chesney and the like, they have their [support crew and bands] on salary. They have to continue to pay these guys, but without any money from shows," he explains matter-of-factly, "It's a lot of money going out, and nothing coming in."

Even artists still in high demand, like Amanda Palmer, have struggled with the sudden tectonic shift. "I've been asked to do a billion streams and casts, but I have just barely been able to keep my sh*t together... I feel so overwhelmed," she shares, "I was wrapping up the final week of a year-long global solo piano theater tour when the sh*t hit the fan." Though the singer only had to cancel one show, the timing of the crisis led to her and her family moving into an AirB&B in New Zealand on short notice, a stressful situation for all involved. "The house has a piano. There's internet," she says, reflecting on the positives of the situation, "I'm going to take a few days off for my mental health, and then I'm going to be a streaming machine." In the time since this interview, Palmer has become heavily involved in the Artist Relief Tree, creating the "Art is Alive" artist's resource guide and many more projects.

The digital age being what it is, artists still have it well within their purview to create and release content. "Coronavirus shuts down a lot of things, but new music is not one of them," confirms Doleac, "I've got my EP Famous coming out April 17th, which I'm really excited about."

"I have my biggest project to date scheduled to release early summer," adds Caroline Romano, "It features an artist who I've been a big fan of for such a long time, and it's actually surreal to see my name on the song with him."

Similarly, Wings Denied have an album coming up in the near future. "The final mixes are in the works. Everything was recorded last year," says Kerecin, "Grammy-nominated producer Joel Hamilton (Highly Suspect, Bonobo, Bomba Estereo) is, as you can imagine, an incredibly popular and busy guy, but thanks to the Corona situation, he has managed to find some time to polish the new record and we are incredibly grateful for that."

Olivia Castriota raises an interesting point about the new music cycle in this time. "It just feels like such an inappropriate thing to do [to be overly promotional] at the moment when it feels like America is crumbling. Everyone is losing their jobs and we barely have money to pay rent," she says somberly, "It feels like, why would anyone care about my new release at this moment in time when there are much bigger things at hand?" Though she does go on to add, "I'm hoping to put some makeup and a bra on in the next week and record some new selfie singing videos, but again finding the motivation is hard."

The emotional toll and its effect on productivity is certainly not to be taken lightly, with the pressure on indie artists to be an active online presence now stronger than ever. Romano corroborates: "Every pop artist in the world is trying to promote themselves through social media. But, in a time when the entire world is online more than ever, it's so much easier to get lost."

Palmer sees continued output, coupled with compassionate outreach, as the only way forward. "This has always been our job as artists. Connect, connect, connect. And when things get hard and dark, connect harder," she declares with candor, "I've got a whole list of projects in my head: leading meditations and sharing sessions, teaching some yoga, doing collaborative songwriting sessions, chatting to people who are sick…"

Congruously, Kerecin sees the moment as one to seize and reaffirm public appreciation for the arts. "What is everyone doing right now when quarantined? Watching shows, movies, listening to music, watching live-stream concerts," he points out, "I think we all should lobby and push this narrative aggressively in the public space. Otherwise, people will start taking these live stream shows for granted, and none of us want that. There are years of blood, sweat and tears and ton of money and equipment behind every one of those."

So what does the path forward look like? There is a general consensus that many artists will be using this time to write and build up a reserve of materials for the future. Philanthropy is also on the cards, with megastar acts such as Lady Gaga partnering with the WHO to raise funds for much-needed resources for frontline healthcare workers. Smaller groups looking to bring affirming music concerts to essential workers have also started to crop up online, but, as Doleac points out, the few net positives of the situation are not strictly COVID related.

"I was at home for one weekend the entirety of last year," he explains, "This situation allows artists, or even just like a traveling parent who's always working time, to spend time with loved ones and work on relationships. I've gotten to talk to my family, and see my girlfriend a lot more than I anticipated. It's been a good reset button in that world." Amanda Palmer's social media feed reflects this too, which currently heavily features time spent with her husband, Neil, and son, Ash. "It's a really surreal paradox of existence," she admits, reflecting on the transition from touring life to isolation.

Artist solidarity is also widespread at this point in time. "Most of [my friends] work in the music business, and I know a lot of [them] are struggling at the moment. I'm doing whatever I can to be there through all of this," Caroline Romano says compassionately. Olivia Castriota adds: "I hope this will bring us all closer as a collective. It is really beautiful to see people and companies come together supporting artists."

In typically optimistic fashion, Adam Doleac shares his prediction for the industry's long-term COVID outcome. "I bet we'll all be more busy than we would have been when this starts getting back up," he says, upbeat, "People will be excited to get out to concerts, see shows they've been wanting to see for three or four months. I think in the end it will be a victory for everybody."

When all else fails, come back to what you know, as Luka Kerecin imparts. "Music has been giving me hope," he says, "When the music stops giving you hope in difficult times, that's when you know the world has really gone to hell. I hope I never find myself in such a place."

Support and Follow these artists online!

Olivia Castriota is an independent soul and R&B artist. Her most recent release "Can't Wait to See You" will appear on her EP "I Need a Minute" coming out later this year. Since interviewing for this article she has begun releasing video content via her social media.

Follow her online: Web | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify

Adam Doleac is a country music artist signed with Sony/ATV. His upcoming EP "Famous" will feature several well-known tracks, including his hit single "Famous", as well as new previously unheard material such as "I Choose Lonely." It is set for release April 17th.

Follow him online: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify

Luka Kerecin is lead singer and founding member of prog-metal band Wings Denied. Their new album is due out later in the year. He is also a lecturer and marketing specialist at the United POP Academy.

Follow him (and Wings Denied) online: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify

Amanda Palmer is the former lead singer of the Dresden Dolls, long-time touring punk musician and activist, and author of the bestseller "The Art of Asking". She recently closed her "There Will Be No Intermission" tour, a four-hour-long piece discussing music, abortion, and radical compassion.

Follow her online: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Patreon | Spotify

Caroline Romano is solo pop-singer. She has been played on Radio Disney, collaborated with Jacob Whitesides, and shared the stage with the likes of Kelsea Ballerini and Shawn Mendes. Her latest project is due for release in the Summer, and her most recent release "Stream of Consciousness" is available from all music outlets.

Follow her online: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify
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Rocky Premieres Music Video for “How Will I Know”

If a person treats you like garbage, they aren't showing you love.


Press Photo

Singer, actress, poet, and burlesque performer of Cameroonian descent, Rocky calls Canada home, but she's currently based in Seoul, South Korea.

Her new music video, "How Will I Know," discards trumped-up female gender myths. Rocky explains, "I am pushing back against the idea that Prince Charming will come and save the damsel in distress. With the help of her community, she can save herself. It was really important for me to include a 'shedding.' This represents shedding all the bull we've been taught about beauty and love"

How Will I Know —

With her deliciously raspy voice, reminiscent of Cindi Lauper merged with Macy Gray, over a soulful hip-hop groove, Rocky analyzes the universal question: How will I know if this love is real? "Does he love me? / Does he care?" she sings.

Follow Rocky Instagram | Twitter | Facebook


Kat Capone Spills the Tea in Music Video for "Choke"

The pop singer-songwriter holds nothing back and keeps it real in her latest music video.

Kat Capone

The New York native pop singer/songwriter Kat Capone continues to shows off her dynamic and candid personality in her latest music video for her song "Choke."

Drawing from her musical influences like Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, and Missy Elliot, Capone skillful combines honest and direct songwriting mixed with fun, impactful pop beats to create music that can be enjoyed by the masses.

The video begins with fast cut scenes of a decadent living room, panning over luxurious decor and glittering gold furniture. The camera then cuts to Capone, dressed stylishly in all black and wearing matching berets with two other women. The trio begins to sip their tea when Capone launches into the song's opening lyric, "I heard what you said/ And you seem a little obsessed/ We coulda been friends/ This song coulda been a duet" with her sensual and raspy voice.

According to Capone, "Choke" is a high energy rhythmic jam full of attitude and confidence inspired by gossipers who secretly follow everything you do. This theme and Capone deep cutting swagger is especially obvious in the track's infectious chorus. With lines like, "You ain't gotta like me I got enough friends/ You ain't gotta lie to me or pretend/ No time for the he said she said/ We could smell the hate on your breath," and "Been hearing that my name's in your mouth/ When you see me you don't even make a sound/ Guess the cat got your tongue tied now/ Don't choke on my name spit it out," the singer makes a stance that she isn't here to waste time and energy on people who are less than authentic.

The quirky track is produced by MultiPlatinum producer KQuick (Alessia Cara, J Cole, Queen Naija) and its infectious flute melody is supported by deep 808s and clocklike percussion. The chorus serves elementary school playground taunting vibes paired with a classic reggae sample from Major Cat.

Check out Kat Capone's music video for "Choke" below!

Choke - Kat Capone (Official Video)


Ryélle Grapples with Heartbreak in "Last Call" Music Video

The R&B singer struggles with love and lack of closure in her latest music video.

After the successful release of her 2018 single "Swim," R&B singer-songwriter Ryélle is back to share a cautionary tale of love and heartbreak in her latest music video for her song "Last Call."

The single, which is heavily inspired by Drake's "Marvin's Room," tells the story of a drunken lover trying to reach their significant other to no avail. "This song was actually written over three years ago, but the storyline is pretty timeless," said the singer. "Every girl can relate to this and the frustration of dealing with a guy who is just not good for them."

The video begins with a subtle fade in on Ryélle and her lover eating together at a long wooden table. Viewers then come to realize that this is an emotionally charged memory for the singer, as she begins to sing about her former love and how the tear stains in her clothes won't come out. Despite her best efforts to ease her pain with alcohol and quick dalliances, she still finds herself giving her ex a "last call." Ryélle's signature smooth and sultry vocals take an especially emotive turn to deliver lyrics like, "They say not to mix love and liquor, but I've had both."

"The video was easy to come up with since the song tells its own story," said Ryélle. "We shot for 16 hours straight, overnight at that! But not by choice. We got kicked out of our first location and spent hours looking for a new one. In the end, it worked out and I'm very pleased with how we told the story. I hope this song can serve as a strength to anyone in a similar situation."

The visuals display Ryélle's vulnerability as she grapples with the need for closure and her yearning to be closer to the object of her affection. The video concludes with an open-ended shot of the singer lying in bed with her ex before fading to black.

Check out Ryélle's latest music video "Last Call" below!


Justin Love Talks New Music and Gifts From God

Oscar nominated R&B singer shares stories of personal struggle and growth in new music video.

Singer-songwriter and producer Justin Love continues to combine the hard-hitting elements of trap and hip-hop with the smooth and vulnerable themes of R&B Soul.

Most recently, in his moody video for his single "Bad Mind." The Cliffside Park, New Jersey native has been praised by the likes of notable musicians and producers like Nicki Minaj, Alicia Keys, Jermaine Dupri and more. Along with Justin's quick rise to fame, he has excelled in co-writing for many of the world's top acts, including the 2016 smash hit "Focus" by H.E.R.

Love opened up to PopDust about his journey as a musician, his artistic vision, and how God had a hand in getting him together to work with H.E.R.:

What was the creative process like for the "Runaway" and "Bad Mind" music videos? Was there a specific story you wanted to tell with each of these visuals?

So as an artist, we like to really tap into our personal and emotional side. In "Runway," I really wanted to make a point that I was running away from all the negativity in my life and towards a better, happier place, whether that be getting away from toxic people or getting away from a toxic environment. I'm from New Jersey and about a year ago I moved to Los Angeles and "Runaway" pretty much sums that experience up. I really wanted to make a point in the visual that I was in a dark place and that I'm just moving on to bigger and better things.

What was it like to work with producer Shy Boogs on "Runaway?"

So Shy and I work together every so often and every time we work together we work very fast. We just kinda tap into whatever experience we're feeling. He just started making a beat, and as he was making the beat, it was kinda screaming the melody. It felt very true and I wanted to stay true to who I am personally and I wanted to give something to my fans that felt personal.

Was the creative process for "Bad Mind" different or similar to your experience with "Runaway?"

I feel like "Bad Mind" and "Runaway" were both pretty similar when it came to tapping into a more personal experience. As I made "Bad Mind" I was going through a very recent breakup and I truly felt that the girl was just in her "bad mind." She was doing things that she wouldn't normally do and it really inspired the whole song and the visual. In the video, you can see that she ends up talking to someone else and we get into a little fight and I feel like there was a lot more that I went through personally but I kept it simple and to the point as far as visuals go. I was just really excited to work with Ronald Reid! I had been dying to work with him and he was the one that directed the whole video. I was just so excited to see what he could add to the picture.

That's awesome! How did y'all meet each other?

He was actually working with a couple of people that I had worked with before, like Justina Valentine and IV.JAY. After looking at their visuals I was like, "Damn, we definitely have to work together." I did reach out to him via social media on Instagram and we just kept in touch ever since.

How does it feel to go from performing in malls in New Jersey and becoming a local celebrity, to making that big move to LA and taking on a much larger audience and scene?

So it was definitely a big change, but I love the challenge. The challenge of having to make it all over again is just a thrill. I get a thrill out of working. I work really hard. In the space where I was at, I didn't see much happening further than what I was already doing, so I felt like I had to make a name for myself elsewhere. That's where I'm at right now and where I've been at for a while. It's taking some time, but I'm getting a kick out of the ride itself.

What have been some of the struggles and successes that you've experienced while trying to make a name for yourself in a new environment?

Definitely meeting new people. When you move across the country, it's a new environment, so becoming accustomed to the new environment and the people and getting to know who your new circle is and what it can become and just getting comfortable. It's really hard to get comfortable when you just move somewhere else. But I work hard, I think my work ethic is undeniable. I do question some of the people I surround myself with sometimes. It's hard to trust people, especially since I've been in a bad deal before. I finally found a great team that I feel comfortable with. I love those guys. It's really just about finding your team and who you're gonna work with. Who's gonna help you keep your head on your shoulders. Us creatives, we go crazy if we don't feel like we're doing enough or we're working so hard but we don't see enough happening.

Could you shed some light on how your work ethic has paid off? I know you've been able to work with H.E.R on her single "Focus," can you tell me about the experience? How did that happen?

I'm gonna tell you this right now, it was God.

It was God??

I blame God for that. I wasn't in the right mental headspace at the time. I was so mentally stressed and I went to New York City for the day. I was talking to a homeless man and I continued walking and what not, and then I hear my name being called in the distance and someone was yelling, "Justin! Justin! Justin!" It was someone from H.E.R.'s management team that actually stopped me and told me that she was upstairs and recording. At that time she wasn't H.E.R., she was going by another name and the woman from her management told me "Oh she's upstairs. You should come up and check out some of her stuff." As I said, I wasn't even doing anything that day. I was just stressed as hell. I went upstairs and listened to her and she was just amazing so the next day we scheduled a session and we went into the session and wrote two or three records that day. I actually found a photo today as I was looking through my photos, I actually wrote the song on a piece of paper and I found the paper that I took a photo of. It was so amazing. We wrote two or three songs that day, "Focus" being one of the three and before I knew it the song was on the radio and—man. I had a good feeling about the song, but I never knew it would become what it became. Just working with H.E.R was amazing. She's definitely god-gifted.

Is there anybody else that you'd like to work with in the future?

Chris Brown, Justin Beiber, Miguel, Usher. I have a few more people just off the top of my head. Ty Dolla $ign, Jeremiah. Female artist wise I'd love to work with Ella Mai and Beyonce for sure! Cardi B would really cool too. I feel like we'd have really good chemistry.

Are there any last words you want to share about what you hope fans take away from the music videos? Is there anything you'd like to say about where you hope your career goes from here?

My final words. Here is some inspiration. Don't focus on any of the hate. If you're focused on your career path, then you need to focus on what you need to do next. You need to focus on your work and what you're doing. Don't change what you're doing for anyone. That's one. As far as where my career is heading, my career is heading to a more truthful place.

What do you mean by that?

I used to create just to create and I would say anything and create anything. Now I'm starting to understand my brand and understand where I want my career to go. It's going to go to a more genuine place within the next three to four months and I want to create with more intention.

Check out Justin Love's latest music video for "Bad Mind" below!