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Musicians face financial, emotional blow from COVID cancellations

Musicians are forced to adjust to make ends meet after a wave of omicron cases led to canceled performances.
Credit: NBC

SEATTLE — As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across Washington, many live performances are being canceled out of an abundance of safety. 

Local artists and venues are pulling the plug on certain shows, all in an effort to slow the spread of COVID. Those cancellations are having a huge impact on the local music scene.

"I would definitely say my favorite part about what I do is performing,” said Zan Fiskum, a full-time musician from Maple Valley. "Every time I'm on stage, I get this feeling of like, this is what I was made to do." 

Fiskum was a contestant on NBC’s The Voice and has been featured in many live shows across the country. 

“Performing for me is like for anybody else when they find their thing," Fiskum said. "And I'm generally more of a shy, reserved person. But on stage, it's like, I just feel the most free at any point in my life.”

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The recent rise in COVID cases has forced Fiskum’s upcoming shows to be canceled. The impact of the pandemic has long been felt during her solo career.

“The journey has been weird," she said. "I think a big part of why it's been so weird is I was in bands before and then I started my personal career, for the most part, during COVID, so it's definitely not been a normal journey.”

“One word that would define the last couple of years is cancellations,” declared Jesse Butterworth, a guitar player and lead singer for The West Coast Feed. “It has been extremely difficult to get something on the books and to make it a successful event.” 

Butterworth and his band miss playing in front of a live crowd. 

“We just have a ton of fun," Butterworth said. "You go and you get 90 minutes of just pure adrenaline.” 

However, playing out is not solely about making money. 

“One of the things we're all about is we make sure we want to give back," Butterworth said. "So we donate all the proceeds from our merch to go to clean water initiatives and to helping vulnerable kids around the world.”

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Fiskum’s well-being is predicated on her performances, which hit her hard once the plug was pulled on her upcoming shows. 

"I was like, 'Oh, I had to cancel all my shows this month. I’ll just start doing some vocal lessons.' Well, people are getting sick and now they can't do that," Fiskum said. "Oh, well, I'll just...I'll do live streams." 

Taking the show online is how Fiskum is now making ends meet. 

“Right now the live streams are pretty much the only thing I have that are bringing in income, as well as my Patreon supporters,” she said. 

"Yes, I'm 100% sold on doing this music thing, but I struggle," Fiskum said, sharing how the emotional and mental impact is also weighing on artists. “I would hope that people would feel a call to action, and whether that is like, Oh, I really like this artist so I'm gonna send them a message to encourage them right now, because it's really hard.” 

Fiskum acknowledged how much people need encouragement, especially during the pandemic. 

“And if you have the means to support somebody financially right now, that is also a huge encouragement, and it's also practical," Fiskum said. "And so I just would love to see that people would hear this and find a way to kind of encourage and push artists forward, because music means so much to everybody.”

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