Grammy- and Latin Grammy-winning music producer Sebastian Krys took to social media this morning to propose a Skype hangout to “talk music or music business” now that many people are staying at home amid the coronavirus pandemic. “Thoughts?,” he tweeted. In a matter of minutes, Monday’s (March 16) session filled to capacity, with 50 people from all over the world signing up to be part of it.
Health and elected officials are encouraging people all over the world to stay home and avoid social gatherings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 — and Krys tells Billboard he’s doing just that, and making the most of it. The sessions, free of cost, will eventually “evolve,” he tells Billboard a few hours after ending his first virtual hangout.
“We understand that everyone is going through financial hardships and if there are ideas or things people would like to see, to put the idea out there cause right now there are a lot of professionals who are stuck at home that could probably take some of the ideas and manifest them. People are willing to donate their time, so let’s take advantage and educate young musicians and young professionals.”
Billboard spoke with Krys — who has worked with Latin powerhouses like Enrique Iglesias, Alejandro Sanz and La Santa Cecilia and was last year honored for his commitment to philanthropy at the BMI Awards — by phone, discussing making music in times of coronavirus and how he hopes musicians take this opportunity to create, consciously.
How did the first class go and what topics did you touch on?
I had people from Ecuador, Costa Rica, Spain and spent some time talking about how everyone seems to be stuck and scared. Spoke a little bit about the industry, production techniques and what’s next, what should people do — which I wish I had the answers. We had some producers, artists, engineers and songwriters. I think, especially for engineers, producers and musicians who work day-to-day, it’s really daunting, like how will they make a living? There’s no easy answer right now. The answer is you can’t. I know a bunch of musicians who were on tour and that got canceled, nobody knows how they will weather the storm. No one knows how long it will take.
What mobilized you to launch this virtual music hangout space?
I think that we have time, all of a sudden, which is something we usually don’t. It’s nice to feel connected to your community and at least have a moment when you can hang out with people even if it’s just virtually and talk about something other than the coronavirus. It’s a nice escape from being stuck [at] home and worrying. For me, we’ve done these kinds of things before, sort of online classes, and this seems like a good opportunity to just figure out how we can be active and pro-active and function in some sort of way. And I hope this will bring other ideas. It’s just a starting point, I’m just trying to think of ways to remain connected and make music and be useful somehow. That’s the biggest thing, I think everyone is kind of thinking, ‘What do I do now?’ I’m lucky in a sense to be in the middle of projects that need to get done. But once those things are done, I’ll think, ‘Ok, what now? How am I useful?’ I’m not a doctor or a nurse or a scientist, so how can I be of service to the community right now? A lot of us are sitting at home where we have our studio, instruments, internet so let’s figure out ways to create.
Pretty much all concerts, tours and/or festivals have been postponed, which isn’t ideal for artists and the industry. Do you think something positive will come out from all of this?
I’m really glad to see artists take the time and do what they know how to do. I watched the Alejandro Sanz and Juanes online concert yesterday, I spoke to Juanes this morning and told him how great it was. To see that artists are doing what they know how to do, to have them on your screen and knowing that they’re feeling this moment as well, it gives you a little bit of comfort. I know how much we look forward to certain concerts and performances. I know how much Juanes was looking forward to performing in Bogotá, which had to be postponed, and it’s for the health of everyone. This is truly affecting everyone and everybody is on the same boat. It’s not just people with less resources or more resources. Obviously, people with more resources can weather the storm better, but everyone will have to step up. I think just now we’re fully understanding the scope of it.
As a producer, what would your message be for artists now who are staying home and have some time to create?
That’s it. You have to create. I think that’s exactly what everyone should do. All of a sudden, your music and your creations will now have a different purpose. Hopefully they create something and send music files to the next person and see what they do with it. That’s my intent. Just start creating things and passing them around and see what happens. Not with any ambition other than, let’s just pass the time and do something fun, as opposed to binge-watching another season of some terrible reality television show. We’re musicians, we’re not really useful outside of music.
Do you think artists will be able to find other sources of revenue to make up for canceled shows or appearances in music festivals?
I don’t know. Even established artists whose economy depends on touring will struggle. We’re going to have to figure this out. I don’t have the answer to that, but I know that we’re all thinking about it. I know the studio musician and the band member who makes a cut from the shows they do and were counting on festival season and then all of a sudden, it’s gone. Also, established artists who have big infrastructures. I spoke to an artist the other day and they told me, ‘I have 20 people who depend on me and I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ That’s why I say that it weighs heavily on everybody. A lot of people will need financial support. I know colleagues in Nashville who just went through the tornado and are now dealing with this. It’s tough times. But we’ll figure it out. We don’t have any other choice.