The year 2020 was by far one of the toughest years for the arts and creative industry following the new coronavirus pandemic outbreak. With the cancellation of concerts and all forms of public gatherings, live performances shifted online, with artistes getting creative by the day. On a positive note, 2020 saw some artistes who didn’t want to sit back and wait for Covid-19 to subside, produce some of the best hits, with Rwandan music predominantly finding its way into the region and onto some of the leading music broadcasters like Trace Mziki. From Bruce Melodie’s Saa Moya to Mico The Best’s Igare and The Mane’s Ikanisa, the last nine months or so have been an opportunity for artistes to churn out their very best. It has not been all doom and gloom with the East African Promoters (EAP), a Rwandan event and show organisers, teaming up with sponsors to organise Iwacu Muzika and My Talent shows which were aired on Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA). It also meant that artistes were able to make some money off the performances, which was a good thing. However, one cannot disregard the fact that most artists, especially those who were not creative or innovative enough, were not able to make money or monetise their work, given the Covid-19 restrictions, especially considering the fact that the majority of them relied on live performances to make a living. With the new coronavirus still around, 2021 is also most likely to be a tough year for musicians, as long as concerts and live performances are still not permitted. So, how are artistes set to cope in 2021? Clement Ishimwe, one of the leading music producers in Rwanda and the brains behind Kina Music label, says 2020 was a lesson for the music industry and musicians will have no option but to continue digitizing their work and monetizing it online. “I would say 2020 was a lesson for me as a record label owner. We had to find ways to keep producing music and videos even though it was a tough year financially because shows were the main source of income before Covid-19,” Ishimwe said, adding that 2021 should be a year of being more innovative. Clement Ishimwe and wife, singer Knowless Butera were busy in 2020. “The only way to go is by going digital. We were selling our music on online stores even before Covid-19, but I have to admit that we werent putting as much effort as we should in terms of marketing and promotion but with the New Coronavirus, we have learnt that this is going to actually be the main source of income,” he added. The producer, who is behind new forces to reckon with in the music industry like, Nel Ngabo, Igor Mabano and experienced ones like, Platini Nemeye and Tom Close, was by far one of the most hardworking producers during the lockdown and the post lockdown period. Taking advantage For singer Alyn Sano, who was one of the most hardworking female artistes in 2020, the year 2021 presents an opportunity for musicians to make money online, which is an assured revenue stream. Sano, who was recently awarded with the ‘Best Female Artiste’ in the Isango na Muzika Music Awards, urged fellow artists to take advantage of digital platforms at their disposal. “2020 was a year of revolution not only for my career, but also to many industries which had to change the ways in which they worked. It was the year I broke through even though it was not easy but I took advantage of the situation to become more innovative,” “Artistes can develop the mindset and skills to make money via the internet by getting creative in many different ways, but mostly by using the internet because these days it is becoming a good source of income,” Sano advised. Her sentiments are shared by singer Tom Close, real name Thomas Muyombo, who apart from music is also a medical doctor and was recently appointed the Director of the National Centre for Blood Transfusion (NCBT) under Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC). He has also been a busy frontline worker. Tom Close believes 2021 will be a better year. “The year 2020 has been a year full of ups and downs, but overall a good year to me and my family. 2020 was good in terms of what I was able to achieve at work, but challenging because work during Covid-19 was a challenge,” Tom Close said. “Music wise, it was a slow year without a lot of activities. I managed to release a few songs and to do one online show,” he recalled. He was among the first people to do an online show in April during the nationwide lockdown and more artistes followed in that line. He believes 2021 will be a better year. “With Covid-19 still here, I think 2021 won’t be as active as the years pre-2020, but I believe there will be an improvement mostly in the second part of 2021,” “I believe things will start going back to normal as they were before the pandemic as soon as people start being vaccinated,” Tom Close said, expressing some hope. Gospel singer Aline Gahongayire says 2020 wasn’t an easy year for artistes around the world as the Covid-19 outbreak affected the careers of the biggest percentage of them. “The past year was really hard because people were caught off guard by Covid-19, especially the music industry. We were all confused about how to bring back the mood for music without live performances,” “Hopefully this year we will find ways of ensuring that we continue working, while at the same time adhering to the Government measures on the prevention of Covid-19, and bring back the spirit of music again,” Gahongayire said. Aline Gahongayire says artists can find ways of working while observing COVID-19 measures. The Ndanyuzwe star believes that gospel music is still very vital in helping people overcome and remain spiritually resilient, but said artistes have to work hand in hand to remain relevant, with the support of the media while at the same time keeping their social media platforms active. Gahongayire is hopeful that 2021 will be a much better year compared to 2020.