Tuesday, June 22, 2021

For buskers, moving online means 70% drop in income

While going digital may have saved many businesses during the MCO, performing online doesn't cut it for some.

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While many businesses have made the move online in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen all but essential services shuttered several times since the virus was detected on Malaysian shores, for some, things just aren’t the same in the virtual world.

Some businesses depend on face-to-face interaction with others – and music is one of them.

For buskers or street performers, their careers hinge on gigs and the contacts they make with others on the job.

Meor Yusof Aziddin Meor Hassan used to be a full-time busker. For 10 years, he performed his songs live for a variety of audiences.

After the movement control order (MCO) was reinstated in mid-January, though, he lost 70% of his earnings despite making the shift online.

“It’s different from physical performances where passersby are never the same and performances are long,” he told MalaysiaNow.

“I don’t earn as much busking online as I did before.”

Meor, 54, used to perform at KL Sentral with permission from the KTMB management. For a decade, he sang to anyone and everyone who wanted to listen.

With the money he earned, he was able to raise four children, the eldest of whom has completed her tertiary education and is now working herself.

But everything changed when the MCO, known as MCO 2.0, was brought back.

Unable to continue singing at his usual spot, he moved his music online. His Facebook account, Meor Pesta Jiwa, has nearly 5,000 followers.

“I don’t earn as much busking online as I did before.”

Still, this is no guarantee of earning what he used to.

“I usually start performing in the afternoon, and I continue until 7pm,” Meor said.

“But singing online is quite limited as only friends and fans will watch. The audience is always the same.”

Meor is no stranger to the music scene. He has published 10 albums independently, writing most of the songs and lyrics himself.

But there is a big difference between performing face-to-face and performing online.

“The number of views is uncertain – sometimes more, sometimes less. The performance cannot be too long either as the viewers might get bored,” he added.

As for earning a living, he understands that everyone has been affected by the MCO.

“It’s impossible for those who have already contributed to do the same every day. Everyone has their own commitments,” he said.

Sacrifices

In addition to being a street performer and a songwriter, Meor used to write for newspapers and online portals on lifestyle topics like music and art.

Now, though, it is difficult to keep writing. His three younger children are still studying and his son needs his laptop to follow the home-based learning system adopted by the government in the wake of the latest wave of Covid-19 infections.

Meor Yusof Aziddin Meor Hassan plays his guitar in the living room while his son uses his laptop to follow a class online.

One of his children is also disabled, and requires extra attention and care.

“My third child in college needs a laptop, as does the youngest who is in Form 4. I prioritise their needs and make sure there’s enough in the kitchen so they always have something to eat.”

Meor’s hope is that the pandemic will end and life will return to normal.

“This would let me go back to performing and ease the financial burden on the family,” he said.

Meor’s Facebook can be accessed here.

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