(Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
(Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
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By Bonnie Stiernberg / March 19, 2020 4:27 am

With much of the country essentially on lockdown in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, independent musicians have been hit hard as they’re forced to cancel shows, festival appearances and even entire tours. As artists scramble to pay their bills and figure out how to bounce back from months of lost income — David Crosby painted a grim picture on the subject in an interview with GQ — many fans are looking to do whatever they can to help keep their favorite bands afloat during these strange, difficult times.

For some, that means paying to watch a live-streamed performance. Bandcamp recently announced that on Friday, March 20 it will waive its revenue share on all sales (putting more money in artists’ pockets), and the Recording Academy and MusiCares also announced a $2 million coronavirus relief fund for musicians and others in the industry who now face financial hardship as a result of the virus. But one major way that fans can contribute to their favorite artists in their time of need is by buying merch: ordering an album, a T-shirt or a poster online doesn’t violate any social distancing restrictions, and one website — MissedTour.org — aims to compile merch listings for musicians who have had to cancel tours in the wake of coronavirus so that those looking to help can easily find things to purchase.

InsideHook caught up with Michael Bishop, the creator of Missed Tour, to talk about how the site works, how long he plans to keep it up, and how artists and labels can get in touch with him to list their merch.

InsideHook: What inspired you to create missedtour.org?

Michael Bishop: It was actually a tweet by a writer named Marissa Moss, who kind of just tweeted it out, “somebody should do this.” And I was like, “Hmm, I think I can do that.” And so I did and started adding some bands and getting some bands listed. But as the news has transpired over the past week, it feels like it’s a little more, maybe a little bit more than a few tours that got shut down … I mean, there’s zero real cost involved in this on me as an expense for setting it up. And I have no intentions — this is not any kind of a monetizing or marketing thing. I’m directly linking to the artists. I’m not doing any transactions on the site, and I’m not attaching any kind of tracking links or anything when I link to the outside to their sites. So it really is meant as a way to give back from attending live shows my entire life and looking forward to them again.

What has the response been like so far?

Honestly, it’s been a little bit, little light. I think it might be a case of most of them are much smaller indie artists, which is great. I think the smaller labels and bands like that have all just been kind of realizing exactly the magnitude of what’s being shut down and kind of responding to the immediacy of that. But I’m hoping to get a few more labels to start adding some stuff this week. And I’m going to be doing some upkeep — I kind of used some vanilla defaults on the aesthetics rather than focusing on that first. I wanted to make sure the mechanics were there and that I had an easy way to add the items and categorize and link out and those types of things. So I’ll be doing some work on that over the next few days as I self-isolate and see what we can do.

Tell me a little bit about what your process for adding bands’ merch has been like. Is it that they reach out to you and then send you links to specific items they want to list?

Yeah, so I created a form on the site with a link that says “Add me” that allows them to link directly to the items they would like to feature. And so I’m linking directly to their stores. I’m not doing any transactions or trying to be a middleman on anything other than aggregate and feature indie band merch and records. So there is a form for that. I have manually added some artists that I’ve seen on Twitter who mentioned that their tour just got canceled, artists that I’m familiar with that I’ve seen before or that I was looking forward to seeing. And I did have one small contact at a label add several of their artists, a couple of items, but I just didn’t want to be presumptive with anybody and specifically pick one item out over another. I’m just kind of letting it kind of grow organically while everyone processes the magnitude of the news that we’re taking in.

I know that this is supposed to be a resource for independent artists who have missed out on tour, but do you have any specific criteria for whose merch you’ll list?

None. Zero. If they have a web presence and a web store and they are a artist of any type, really at this point, I’m not making any kind of judgments. And ideally, I would love to see maybe some higher-profile artists feature some exclusive stuff linked through there that would allow then a broader exposure to the smaller artists that are there being featured. But I haven’t taken it to that degree or reached out. That was kind of the idea, I think, in the original tweet — was for artists to maybe feature a couple exclusive items or signed LPs types of things. And so that’s where I was originally hoping could guide some of it. But I’ve had some cool things featured, a onesie and a really cool ceramic coffee mug, a camp mug … things like that, that even people who aren’t necessarily familiar with the band but might want to be able to take the money that they’ve been saving from not going to Starbucks all week and maybe buy something from a cool local band they weren’t familiar with.

Do you have any idea how long you plan to keep the site going? Obviously there’s no real timetable as to when things will get back to normal, but do you plan to keep maintaining it after this is all over?

Yeah. I mean, afterwards, I still would like to use it as a resource for other artists who maybe had a show canceled for an illness or some other type of a thing, to just kind of leave it as an open-ended exploratory into independent artists and music. But there is no timeframe on it or any plan outside of just having that resource. And then maybe over time as it organically adds, then when everyone kind of comes back to regular life, we’ve cleared the curve and we’re getting back to things and then be able to say, “Hey, check this out. While you’re getting back to your normal things, all these artists weren’t able to do this, so see what you can do here.”

You mentioned the form on the site earlier. Is that the best way for artists or labels to contact you?

Yes. That would be the best way. But the form also has a place where it’s an option to include your email if for instance, you’re a contact with an agency or a label and you’d like to feature several artists without having to do each item one-by-one, there’s a space to include an email contact that I can follow up on. And then I’ve worked with one other person where they were just able to send it all in in one email versus having to fill the form out every time. But for individual artists, the form is probably the easiest way because that way they get to pick what items they would like to feature, whether it’s the high-ticket items or something they’re really proud of or new … any of those types of things.