Whilst this interview was conducted before Victoria was pulled back into lockdown, it is still incredibly relevant to hear stories from our hard-hit industries. Nightlight is a duo made up of Laura Lazzara and Hayley Austen who describe themselves on their Instagram as ‘Melbourne’s one only synth-pop rap royalty’. I think that pretty much says it all. I reached out to Laura and Hayley about their experiences with COVID-19 lockdown and the subsequent pitfalls that the emerging music industry had taken.
Like many young professionals, Laura and Hayley found themselves out of work for a while, with little left to do and whole lot of time. Both decided to focus more on their music, with Laura even picking up fixing old game consoles as a new hobby. However, the stress of suddenly being unable to work and not knowing the next step took its toll.
Hayley: ‘…During COVID-19 I have noticed a significant toll on my mental health. It’s now a struggle to get things done that I usually had no problem with…’
But Hayley has committed to finding ways to keep busy such as forming a daily routine.
Fortunately, Nightlight itself was not threatened as Hayley and Laura were able to sustain their music online. Thank goodness for the internet! However, as small-time musicians, making a living relied in working typical customer service jobs, which were no longer available. As for government support, there’s of course jobseeker and jobkeeper (if you have an ABN) and there’s the $6 million to help live performers—but this is not enough to sustain the whole industry. Laura expressed how other industries, such as horse racing, received $44 million from the government because it’s seen as contributing to the economy more.
Laura: ‘I personally believe that more could be done to support one of Melbourne’s—if not Australia’s largest entertainment economies.’
There are other ways for musicians to get financial support. Hayley and Laura explained that there are grants from the City of Melbourne, ABC etc. However, these only tend to apply to more established artists—though Triple J: Unearthed does offer a grant for small and emerging performers. Both Hayley and Laura stated that, ‘…No amount of money will make up for the opportunities that many musicians have lost during this time, as time and exposure have been lost alongside monetary payment.’
Despite all this, the dynamic duo are still out there paving the virtual pavement by keeping up with social media engagement and online events, such as the Instagram live event Housebound , saying, ‘It is important to us that we are present in the face of adversity.’
I asked Hayley and Laura if they had any advice for young artists in a similar situation. They suggested maintaining balance as best you can between work and life, Laura said ‘If you treat music like it is your life, rather than work, this will help tremendously.’ Hayley spoke about how ‘demoralising’ her experience trying to find a job that was away from her music was , however, she said to remind yourself why your working jobs you don’t want to. ‘To be an artist, you need a livelihood just like everyone else. So it doesn’t matter where your money is coming from, as long as you have enough to continue pursuing your passion.’
To support your local, emerging artists (as well as the industry in general) go to gigs (when you can), buy merch and discover new artists. As Laura said ‘…At the end of the day, people power will be what really counts.’ You can even support by sharing a post or liking a video, any engagement is welcome. Hayley and Laura said that this will probably be the best way, at the moment, to provide that subtle, yet crucial, moral support to these hardworking and talented artists.
Hayley: ‘…When you do discover these artists, tell your friends, share their posts, recommend their music. It’s that easy.’
Discover Nightlight on:
Check out their merch from Bandcamp