The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the direction of the world and the plans of many in 2020. The ripple effects of what the illness will have on the economy, job industry and our livelihoods are still unknown. The pandemic has caused many industries to come to a grinding halt, including businesses catering to nightlife.
That's especially the case for New York City, a cultural epicenter known for its history, museums, restaurants, fearless freaks and of course its never ending nightlife. The city that never sleeps was forced to take a nap when the coronavirus spread across its five boroughs. COVID-19 shut down everything that makes New York what it is.
“I never saw this coming, neither did anybody I know. Even if Miss Cleo was around, she wouldn't have seen it. She was never wrong, right?” legendary New York columnist and nightlife figure Michael Musto, of NewNowNext.com, told InsideEdition.com. “I've been through the early days of AIDS. I've been through 9/11. As a New Yorker, I've seen all the horrors. Things were shut down here and there. I've never been through a complete shut down, a quarantine. That hasn't happened in my lifetime in New York City.”
Iconic hip-hop DJ Mister Cee agreed, telling InsideEdition.com: "We took that way too much for granted living free. We live in America, we live free."
Key figures in New York's nightlife and entertainment industries, which often overlap, are now forced to adapt.
“It's bizarre for me because every night I used to go to screenings, Broadway plays, maybe a drag bar, an event, wrap parties. All kinds of things. It's bizarre to have nowhere to go," Musto said. "But, while I'll never get spiritual, I don't mind spending time with myself. I'm reaching out to friends on Zoom and Houseparty. I'm getting my work done."
Jenna LoMonaco, VP of digital marketing for Island Records, is used to being in the gritty clubs and concert halls of New York City for her artists' gigs. Now, while still working nonstop, the environment is decidedly different.
“I'm very busy with work,” she said. “We're really just trying to be as creative and still connect with fans as much as possible, even though we have limited resources and there's no ability to have a crew with an artist or anything.”
LoMonaco's rost of artists includes legends like Elton John, The Killers, Shawn Mendes and Toni Braxton, as well as rising stars like Skip Marley, Leyla Blue, and July Talk. Regardless of experience in the music business, each artist has recognized the role music can play in soothing those anxious about unsure times, and each is doing the best they can to entertain fans, she said.
“You just have to adapt to what's going on and figure out how to give people live music in the state of the world that we're in,” she said. “Obviously, it doesn't fulfill the need for being at a show, but it's this really sweet, amazing thing ... this is the first time in history that we're all living the same exact life. Whether you're rich or poor or famous or not, we're all in our house, trying to figure out what to do with ourselves and keep going with our normal lives and overeating and talking to your pet like it's a person.”
Live streaming concerts and DJ battles have now turned everyone's home into a club. Recently RZA from Wu-Tang Clan took on DJ Premier, while DJ D-Nice even got Michelle Obama to join in on his fun.
“Music can definitely help us heal. As you see on social media with all the DJs going live and so on and so forth, from and all these great battles that we're seeing in hip-hop,” Mister Cee added.
“By sheer necessity, we're learning ways to express ourselves and do what we normally do. But this time, we're doing it without leaving the house and, I think, as a result, we're going to find that we didn't need a lot of the things we thought we needed,” Musto said.
Trackstar the DJ, from Run the Jewels, was supposed to be on the road this spring with his group touring with Rage Against the Machine. They were set to play high profile concerts and at festivals such as Coachella, but that has been sidelined due to the outbreak.
The group's band is spread across the country as they eagerly await the release of their new album, “Run the Jewels 4." Trackstar lives in St. Louis, while El-P is in New York and Killer Mike is in Atlanta. But Trackstar said they're making the most out of being home.
Like many music artists, their shows are a way to connect with fans. But the group is notorious for shaking hands and high-fiving their crowds. It's a tradition Trackstar doesn't think the band will give up.
“I'm definitely not afraid to get back on stage, because I know we're not going to do it until it makes sense,” he told InsideEdition.com.
Others, however, believe behaviors adopted during the pandemic will carry on for the foreseeable future not just in New York, but across the country.
“Either everybody's going to flood and want to see everything and do everything and go everywhere or we're just going to be terrified the whole time,” LoMonaco said. “And I don't know which way it's going to go.”
LoMonaco noted she believes people will wear masks or gloves to events, at least for a little while, while Mister Cee suggested we may see people sell hand sanitizer in the venues.
“Some people have the perspective that people aren't going to be comfortable going out, or going to want to go out. And I'm sure there'll be some reduction in how packed spots are. At least for a little while, I don't know how long it'll take before people get comfortable again," Trackstar said. "I don't know if masks and gloves and clubs are going to become a norm or something or what precautions are going to have to be taken for people to get comfortable again."
For those trying to breakthrough at a time of so much uncertainty, attracting new fans and courting attention from bookers might be even harder once events are able to take place.
“What I do fear is that I feel like the smaller, lesser known DJs is going to have a tougher time getting booked than the bigger known DJs, because if you are a promoter and you're trying to get back in business after this pandemic is over, you're going to rush to get the more well known DJ, as opposed to the lesser known DJ,” Mister Cee said. “You're not going to take a chance on a lesser known DJ to try to fill your room back up when you're trying to get back started again.”
But still, many believe that better days are ahead.
“I think when this is over, there's going to be the biggest party since Studio 54 but I also think people are learning to adjust because that's human nature. You adjust in a crisis. You adapt,” Musto said.
“I think that the nightlife is going to be even bigger than ever,” Mister Cee added. “People are going to come out in droves to want to party and want to have a good time.”