Pattaya musicians struggling as live music disappears

Surin performs at a local restaurant and gets tips from customers who enjoy and appreciate his talent and fighting spirit. His daily income is drastically reduced from 1000 baht to 200-300 baht.

Live music is dying in Pattaya and singers and bands’ fortunes are dying with them.

Surin, a musician from Chumphon, has been playing in Pattaya bars for a decade, but these days he traded in his guitar most days for casual work, anything to make a baht.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, live music bars were replacing go-go bars on Walking Street and live music could be heard from tourist areas to the “Darkside”.

Then came four months of lockdown and, after that, restrictions on live music. These days there are no government controls on music, but many bars either didn’t reopen or have closed again. And those still operating are in cost-cutting mode, with live music an easy expense to eliminate.

A guest at this restaurant seems to be enjoying Surin’s performance of his favorite songs.

Surin looks at pubs and bars playing YouTube videos or streaming-music playlists and just shakes his head.

“Playlists and videos are not the same as live music,” he said. There is no vibe, he said. Live bands are entertainment. Spotify playlists are just background music.

Like many musicians, Surin’s income has gone from thousands of baht a day to a few hundred. He said he’s hoping the government loosens borders controls and allows a larger number of foreign tourists to return to Thailand soon.