Coronavirus: Artists cope with loss of jobs by holding online concerts, setting up fund

Voice-over artist Audrey Lim has started Take Back The Nights with three other core team members. PHOTO: AUDREY LIM

SINGAPORE - Voice-over artist Audrey Lim, 33, has seen almost all her hosting and emceeing gigs dry up due to the coronavirus pandemic.

She relates to other arts practitioners who have found themselves in a tough spot, in particular production crew members.

"We hear about a lot of artists having their concerts cancelled, but we sometimes forget about the ancillary industry that goes on around that," says Lim.

Hoping to help freelancers in the music scene, she has set up an online concert series called Take Back The Nights, together with three others - Umami Records co-founder Aaron Wong, music practitioner and equipment rental provider Ao Cheng Su and Deity Microphones regional marketing manager Chen Jinfu.

The team is roping in local artists, such as music duo Jack & Rai and singer Tabitha Nauser, and collaborating with multimedia creative agency Rawspark Group to produce the online concerts. It is also working with The Music Society, Singapore to raise donations from the public through QR codes, to help fund wages of the concert performers and production crew members.

They hope to raise $192,000 for 12 episodes that will be livestreamed starting next month (April).

Like Lim and her team, others in the Singapore arts scene are also coming up with creative ways to cope with the coronavirus downturn. Stricter social distancing measures mean that most arts events and concerts have been cancelled.


Singapore Unbound, an United States-based interest group for Singapore writers, started an emergency fund to help writers who are Singaporean and permanent residents stay afloat during this period.

Fund organiser and founder of Singapore Unbound, poet Jee Leong Koh, 50, said the fund grants $280 to writers in dire need.

"Fortunately, I have a full-time teaching job, so the cancellations are disappointing, but not devastating," said Koh.

Since the fund's launch, Jee said at least three people had donated about US$200 each to the fund.

"We need to stand by our writers when they are in need... It is also our hope that our initiative will spur other community efforts to help one another in other artistic fields besides writing and even beyond the arts," he said.

Singaporean actor and writer, Bryan Donovan Sng, who secured a grant from the fund, said the Covid-19 pandemic has severely affected his income. Sng, 27, who is based in Brooklyn, New York, said he would use the money from the grant for rent and groceries.

Local publisher Ethos Books, meanwhile, is trying to counter the dip in retail sales by ramping up its online operations to support sales through its online shop. It is also working with the National Library Board to offer digital loans as well as web and app-based audiobook company Storytel to offer audio books.


As for artist and art therapist Lee Sze-Chin, 41, his art therapy work has been reduced by half as a result of the coronavirus situation.

Artist and art therapist Lee Sze-Chin during a previous art therapy session at Jurong Community Hospital. PHOTO: NG TENG FONG GENERAL HOSPITAL

He can conduct sessions at just one organisation as patients and healthcare staff have been asked to limit their movement across different healthcare premises.

As most of his art therapy session participants are elderly, Lee tries to limit physical contact with participants in his other art projects in the community. He has cut the length of sessions from 90 minutes to just 30 minutes and conducts the rest of the session over video conference.

Lee, who also conducts art tours at the National Gallery Singapore, is working with the gallery to pilot a project that allows facilitators to conduct tours via video conferencing for students, who will be in their classrooms in schools.

He says: "I've really been pushing for digital technology to overcome the challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak. I guess we are all just trying to think of alternative ways to carry on our practice."

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