For Italy, a country reeling with the second-highest number of cases of COVID-19 and the most deaths -- with more than 47,000 infections and over 4,000 deaths -- the event was a moment of release for penned-in citizens, and it spurred other organic musical celebrations in the days that followed.
“It helped break the eerie silence that had begun to creep over our cities,” Luciano Bevilacqua, one of the flash mob’s organizers, tells Billboard. “And it helped fight other viruses, such as loneliness.”
In recent weeks, artists in other countries badly affected by the virus outbreak -- including Spain, China and South Korea -- have also turned to virtual concerts to connect with fans and keep their spirits up.
In February, as the virus was surging in China, DJ-producer CORSAK hosted a 40-minute livestream show on his TikTok page from his bedroom in Shanghai, where he played keyboards and sung. That same month the DJ joined a group of more than 20 artists of different genres from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan for a “sofa concert” on TikTok, with most performing live from their homes. In South Korea, 13-year-old Dongwon Jeong, a finalist on a popular audition program, “Mr. Trot,” uploaded a video of him singing a medley of songs, which he dedicated to "those in self-isolation and getting treatment" for COVID-19.
In Spain, where the number of virus cases has surged the past two weeks -- it now has more than 20,000 cases, the third-most in the world, and more than 1,000 deaths -- Franchejo Blázquez, an artist manager and promoter who works for management agency Must Productions, organized #YoMeQuedoenCasa (“I’m Staying Home”). The virtual festival featured some 40 artists playing live sets on Instagram, including Rozalén, David Otero and Diana Navarro. An hour after it kicked off, some 60,000 people had logged on, Blázquez tells Billboard from Madrid. The artists, some of whom had been forced to cancel concerts at major venues, performed for free.
Economic impact mounting
The bursts of spontaneous musical expression and altruistic music-sharing have masked, for the moment, the fast-spreading economic pain being felt by Italy and Spain’s music industries, which are facing massive upheaval from a shutdown of live events and overall economic activity.