Last week, Melbourne/Naarm duo Cry Club released their second single of 2022, the glam pop anthem ‘Somehow (You Still Get to Me)’. In the wake of its release, the duo of Heather Riley (they/them) and Jono Tooke (he/him) speak to Music Feeds about the various challenges independent musicians face in cultivating financially viable careers.
“I honestly don’t think musicians will survive without support from each other at every level,” says Riley. “Money has always been a major uhurdle for artists starting off, and it’s only gotten harder post-Covid to stay in the green.”
Cry Club – ‘Somehow (You Still Get to Me)’
Riley cites the rising costs of flights and accommodation, as well as everyday essentials, as a major setback for many independent musicians. “We need to lean on each other more than ever,” they say. Riley, a recent convert to roller skating, has been inspired by the solidarity on display in the roller skating community.
“I’ve had people at the skate park show me how to fix my gear, help me learn new tricks, and take me to cool spots I wouldn’t have found on my own,” they say. “I think musicians could learn a lot from such a fiercely supportive community – sharing knowledge and skills with each other to help keep our costs down and giving opportunities to other artists to help them get a leg up in the industry.”
Tooke draws attention to the damaging expectation that musicians constantly expand their audiences and boost their output. “You should always be selling more tickets, getting more streams, having more people work with you,” he says. But this doesn’t really translate to the current environment. “Covid has essentially randomised the direction of everyone’s careers, making informed decisions almost impossible.”
As a result, some artists have seen significant growth, while others have seen a decline in audience engagement.
In response, Tooke suggests that musicians do “a top and tail reassessment of their career on where they are standing right now.”
He continues, “All previous informants doesn’t matter anymore and holding onto how things used to be will apply an amount of pressure on you that is absolutely unsustainable.”
Cry Club – ‘People Like Me’
Riley underlines the benefits of strong community ties in navigating the changed conditions. “If we can give a little more of our time to each other, it lifts that burden and can push back the burnout a little longer,” they say. “I think looking into unconventional venues for unique shows will help keep audiences engaged as well, and having that support from other artists means we can take those risks without the fear that it’ll send us broke if it doesn’t work out.”
Tooke says it’s important to pay attention to the positives, too. “You may have upskilled significantly during lockdowns,” he says. “You may have developed a stronger relationship with the audience you have, you may have written a tonne of music you are super proud of.
“All of these things are worth celebrating and any ‘backwards steps’ in other aspects of your career don’t cancel these things out, regardless of what any industry pressure suggests to you.”