Music News: Music world works to guard mental and physical health in COVID era


Concertgoers at a Leipzig show designed to test potential virus spread.
Concertgoers at a Leipzig show designed to test potential virus spread. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The tragic death of singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle, who succumbed at age 38 to what Nashville police are characterizing as a "probable drug overdose," was yet another reminder that as COVID-19 continues to plague the planet, mental health concerns are a growing challenge in the music world as well as in society at large.

The Associated Press reports that overdose deaths have risen during the pandemic, likely due to "due to social isolation, stress and job losses." Some artists, like the British pop band the Vamps, say they're not only looking after their own mental and physical health but engaging with their fans as well to share connection and inspiration.

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Efforts continue to protect the physical health of artists and fans, including one fascinating German experiment designed to monitor how a contagion might spread through a concert audience. A team of researchers in Leipzig tested 1,400 audience members for the coronavirus, then brought them in for a concert by the German pop singer Tim Bendzko. The attendees were asked to watch performances in varying configurations with more or less social distancing, as well as to do things like wait in line for concessions and use the bathrooms. A variety of tracking tools will model how a virus could spread under those circumstances.

The researchers' thought is that the better we understand how exactly the virus spreads, the more quickly and safely we can get back to big shows. The scientists, the artists, and the attendees at last weekend's concert said they wanted to enhance our understanding of the virus, but they also said they welcomed any opportunity to get back to live music. Once concertgoer told the New York Times, "I think this is a sign of things moving back toward the old normal. It makes it a bit more tangible."

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