John Harris

Journalist & Author

Unless we start paying, making music will become the preserve of the elite | John Harris

Coronavirus has left Britain’s musicians struggling to survive. An industry revolution is needed, but change can start with us

A few weeks ago, I spent £27 on a record with the enticing title Live Drugs. I bought it because I am a fan of its creators, the Philadelphia-based rock group the War on Drugs, and also because I was in the midst of a pandemic-related phase of insomnia and anxiety and it seemed to offer the prospect of a bit of uplift. But the main reason was the prospect of some kind of reconnection with something I almost seem to have forgotten: live musical performance, and what it’s like to hear and watch a band with a multitude of other people.

Live Drugs was recorded in an array of places across the world over a period of five years; one review called it “a grand love letter to live music”. Its best moments suggest a kind of inarticulable dialogue between the group and its audience, something heard most spectacularly on the 12-minute evocation of 21st-century living titled Under the Pressure, when thousands of people passionately sing along not with the words, but the guitar part. They sound like a football crowd.

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

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