The summer of 2020 hasn't been a normal one for local musicians, with live shows and touring now non-existent. But a new project created by local talent is aiming to help musicians through the difficult time.
The St. John's Musician Merch Fair, organized by Tim Baker, formerly of Hey Rosetta!, was created to help musicians make up for lost revenue through merchandise sales and allow the community to help support local talent.
"Most of the income for touring and gig musicians has pretty much evaporated," Baker said Sunday. "So we wanted to do something where the community can come out and support musicians, and we could all get out and have a sweet hang together as well… It feels like a real win-win."
The fair, which was held over the weekend at Bannerman Brewery in St. John's, featured 15 musicians and vendors, including groups such as The Swinging Belles, The Once, Property and Rube & Rake among others.
"It feels great. It feels like a community kind of coming together. It was overwhelming, the support [Saturday]. I'm delighted by it, and I'm very thankful," Baker said.
Andrew O'Brien, one half of the duo Fortunate Ones, said the event was a great way for him to be able to reenter a creative space with other musicians after months of working from home.
"It's been great to be in a room with friends again," he said.
"We played some songs yesterday, and it's just an opportunity to get together to, I guess, remember why we do this and share in the kind of creativity that has been on some level put on hold … [and] something to kind of tie us over before the gigs come back."
Both Baker and O'Brien said the local music scene has been quiet in terms of performances. However, the break has served as a rare time to pause — something Baker says is rare in the industry.
"We were supposed to have a summer of festivals and touring, and that obviously didn't happen," Baker said. "I've been writing a lot, and working on [my] new record, spending time with family and friends."
"It's been a great time to kind of slow down, work on new music," O'Brien added. "After the dust settled, of the idea of COVID, we started working on new music and projects that we could do in isolation from home. So yeah, [Fortunate Ones] are prepping to make a new record and get that done in the next couple months."
Outside of returning to a space with other musicians, Baker hopes revenue from the fair can also help those involved get through the coming months as uncertainty still surrounds the industry.
"It's been a long, sort of dry spring and summer for touring musicians and gigging musicians," he said. "With CERB drying up, now I think we're all going to start feeling the pinch."
"We're just trying to keep the fear at bay," he added. "If this is a real long term thing, I mean it's already hurt so many musicians and all the people that work around music. The crews, the engineers, the venue operators, owners, workers. It's a pretty big industry, and people don't realize how many people you can employ by live music."
The group hopes this weekend's iteration won't be the last fair, and are hoping to have another around Christmas time.