AS the entire country and beyond struggles in the grip of the Covid-19 crisis, musicians – and folk musicians perhaps especially – are beginning to feel the pinch.

Already, Scots trio Talisk have had to resort to a crowdfunding campaign to get them home from America after their tour there was cancelled, leaving the band hugely out of pocket. Happily, they made it home safely thanks largely to the generosity of traditional music fans who logged in for a performance and donated generously.

What next, though, for musicians as this crisis begins to escalate, with summer festivals and even dates in autumn beginning to be cancelled or postponed?

For James Mackintosh, Shooglenifty’s percussionist, the crisis is already having an effect.

“I have scores of colleagues and friends who have lost weeks’ worth of work, some are out on tour already, or have travelled to begin their spring tours to discover they’ve had to immediately turn around and fly home – from Europe, America and Asia – without any of the revenue that would have covered their flights, let alone any wages,” says Mackintosh.

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“My band, Shooglenifty, have had several spring gigs cancelled, and some festival slots postponed, but there are many more in a much more precarious position.”

For Scots singer Amy Papiransky, it is much the same story.

“The cancelling of gigs, tours and lessons is going to have a huge effect,” she says. “I am really fortunate that I have my teaching degree and a job in a secondary school. I also teach privately most evenings and all these lessons have pretty much been cancelled. If that was my only income apart from gigs I would be in trouble.

“I’m definitely not in as horrendous a position right now compared to most of my musician friends, but I do understand what that must be like so I am ready to do all I can to support them.”

Fiddler Aileen Reid of Kinnaris Quintet is concerned about the impact this crisis is going to have.

“Obviously there is a crippling financial black hole,” says Reid. “Not many have any financial security whatsoever. Not one aspect of our livelihood has any prospect of security anymore. Even the things further down the line – who knows if they’ll go ahead?

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“This sense of impending financial doom is leaving everyone with huge anxieties about how to afford rent, mortgages, bills, food, babes to feed – ultimately, how to survive. That puts us all at risk of a downward spiral of self-doubt and deep-rooted insecurities, which we all try even at our peaks to overcome. There is a feeling of ‘what am I doing, does this creativity even matter, what is the point in this, music is completely insignificant in the grand scheme of things, I should get a real job’.

“We’re in darkness just now, but with everyone’s help, we’ll make it brighter than it’s ever been,” says Reid. “It’s been a week of just mayhem, but it’s been totally eye-opening to see the beauty of the music scene. The mutual support amongst everyone is really special. Rather than anyone capitalising on having an upper-hand or knowledge of Skype lessons, Facebook Live gigs etc, we’re seeing nothing but generosity and compassion and love and kindness in offers to help other musicians to learn and do the same. We’re seeing music being shared and taught and collaborated online. It’s genuinely heart-warming.”

Obviously, it’s not only musicians who are going to suffer during this crisis – many individuals and families will be affected, either financially or emotionally. The hospitality industry is facing something of an Armageddon. But, that said, for those who can afford it, there are ways to help struggling musicians.

“I guess supporters and music fans can continue in their support in many ways,” says Mackintosh. “It’s always great to read a message from a fan of your music, how they got into it, and what it means to them, and all the better if they continue to buy from musicians by ordering CDs direct from the band. Most Scottish folkies have got stacks of CDs in their homes and would be only too delighted to see them winging their way to happy customers.

“There are also various crowdfund campaigns springing up, so I guess, if you’re in a position to support struggling groups and artists, then go for it. Music can be an enormous balm in difficult times, so if you can’t get out to a gig, maybe spend the cash you would’ve used to buy or stream some of the music you would have been missing.”

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Fiddler Ryan Young is also urging fans to help in whatever ways they can. One of the finest younger players on the scene, Young tours extensively and teaches to supplement his income, but both of these revenue streams have been cut off.

“I haven’t really thought about how I’m going to make money – and I really should start thinking!” says Young. “The whole situation is just very overwhelming. Being self-employed isn’t the easiest at times, but to see everything you’ve been working on or working towards vanish in an instant is terrifying.

“It must be so scary for the venues, too. They’re having to close and it’s really worrying to wonder if they’ll still be there when we all pull through this. I saw a lovely thing on Facebook recently called something like ‘forego my refund’ – basically encouraging people to support the artists and venues they follow. I am really worried about things. It is all unprecedented and there appears to be a lack of constructive guidance from the Government, leaving us in unchart- ed territory.

“Supporters of traditional music can really support artists by buying merchandise and avoiding free streaming platforms like Spotify. It would be great if these big streaming platforms were to take a break for the next while, meaning people would have to stream or buy the music from places that actually make the artists money.”

Reid is of the same mind. “The best way anyone can support musicians just now is to buy their music – even if streaming is their favourite or easiest way to listen to music, if they can buy a digital or physical copy online, and then stream it, then it will go such a long way,” she says. “Streaming alone will do absolutely nothing but feed the monster that is destroying musicians. Buy merchandise, follow their online stuff, share all the things you can about them, and quite honestly, remind them of why their music is important. Those moments that their music hit you and made you smile, cry, laugh, anything – send them a wee message or tag them or something to let them know what they do is important and worthwhile. That kind of thing goes a long, long way, and re-affirms why we create music.”

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There are, though, some positives to be found in the gloom.

Look at any folk artist’s page on Facebook and you will see them planning collaborations, new music, online gigs and all manner of new projects.

“I’m looking forward to working on some of my own musical ideas that have been languishing on hard drives for months, if not years,” says Mackintosh. “There’s always something to distract you from focusing on your music, so perhaps some enforced exile will allow a period of creativity and reflection. I’m very fortunate to have a caravan up in Ardnamurchan so I’m looking forward to spending some time up there in spring. Maybe I can get some writing done.

“I realise I’m privileged in so many ways, at the same time aware there are going to be some very tough times ahead for loads of folk, so I’ll be offering time at the caravan to others who might need some space or respite.”

Reid agrees that there is an upside to all of this.

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“Positives are the fact that absolutely everyone has to slow down and just be and to get to know themselves,” she says. “This time can potentially be used to create, write, explore things they’ve always wanted to have time to do.”

Perhaps when this all subsides there will be an outpouring of creative energy. Let us hope so. Until then, drop a folkie a Facebook message, let them know what they do is appreciated. And if you can afford it, buy some merchandise or donate to a patreon or crowdfunder.

To help go to

For young musicians concerned about the future during this crisis, visit