The COVID-19 virus has put a pause on many things.
For local independent musicians, that includes performing, locally and on the road.
Some have continued to record. Some have put releases on pause. Others have found new ways to interact with fans or discovered different ways to be creative while still making a living.
For musician René Kladzyk, who performs and releases music under the moniker Ziemba, that includes focusing on reporting on current events for the local online news website El Paso Matters, releasing a new album – and possibly adopting a dog.
Through the lockdown and the death of her father in January, she’s tried to remain positive and continues to work on her writing, music and other projects.
Her new album, “True Romantic,” will be available on all platforms via Sister Polygon Records in the fall.
El Paso Inc. caught up with Kladzyk to talk about how musicians are coping through the COVID-19 crisis. This interview was edited for brevity.
Q: How has the pandemic changed your plans for 2020?
Like most people, the pandemic has dramatically altered my life. I’m releasing a new album in September, and if COVID weren’t a thing, then I’d probably be busily planning tours right now to promote the record. Instead, I’m looking at adopting a dog and planning to be in El Paso for the foreseeable future; no touring for me in 2020.
Q: What have you been doing since March when things got shut down?
I began writing for a local publication, El Paso Matters, after the start of the pandemic, and that’s what I’ve been dedicating most of my time to over the past several months.
Q: What are your plans for the rest of the year?
My new album will come out on Sister Polygon Records this fall, so that’s a biggie. I’ll be doing lots of writing and research about local and regional news issues (for El Paso Matters). Otherwise, I’m planning to adopt a dog. … I’d like to do more hiking in the Franklins.
Q: How is the pandemic affecting yourself and other independent artists?
Pursuing a career in music was already incredibly financially precarious and unsustainable for most independent musicians before COVID-19.
If anything, the pandemic has laid bare the unfairness and exploitative nature of the streaming economy, where most independent musicians were entirely dependent on touring income because they could not expect to be paid a fair rate by people buying their music or are not compensated fairly for their creative labor by platforms like Spotify.
For me and for many others, COVID-19 has been a wake-up call to how fundamentally unsustainable the industry’s structure is, though unfortunately I don’t know that I have a solution for it.
I think many independent artists are finding themselves in a position where they’re pursuing alternate career paths because, for the foreseeable future, making a living off of music just doesn’t seem feasible.
Even friends of mine who are in hugely successful acts are grappling with this.
Q: What new ideas have sprung from this downtime?
Well, I’ve been focused on writing much more lately, which has been incredibly rewarding and exciting. Honestly, I haven’t felt all that motivated to work on new music lately, though I think that has less to do with COVID and more to do with my Dad’s death.
Since he died, I haven’t really felt ready or able to write much music. Normally I write a lot, all the time, but I haven’t wanted to since he died. There’s been something stuck, and I’m not trying to force it. I’m sure I’ll write music again, eventually.
Q: How can fans support you and other indie artists they love right now?
I definitely encourage fans to consider using Bandcamp, as opposed to other streaming apps, and to actually buy the music of artists that they love. Additionally, I started an account on Ampled, which is an artist-led cooperative music site where fans can subscribe to artists they love and pay a monthly rate for access to exclusive materials.
Sites like these are incredibly helpful during low periods and are a great way for fans to show support for artists.