Any performer will tell you their greatest thrill comes in playing to the crowd. But for 10 long months, the arts and entertainment industry has been in hibernation. No crowds to play to, venues closed, performances cancelled, theatres lying dormant.
An industry in crisis, there were cries for help as artists saw their livelihoods disappear overnight. Some £33m in emergency funding was promised. That money has yet to appear.
And, still, there has been no way back. Online shows have only gone a little way to fill the creative void. They don't pay the bills. The only thing we can applaud them for is their patience.
With all the clamour over education, travel restrictions and Christmas in lockdown, the arts sector could be forgiven for thinking that, once again, it is being treated as an afterthought, an indulgence we could all do without. Tell that to those who make their living in the industry.
The year the music died has moved into 2021, which looks like becoming the year the music remained dead.
"Where do we go from here? That's the million-dollar question," says Jimmy Fay, whose stint as executive producer at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast must rank as the most turbulent in the venue's illustrious history.
"I'm sitting here feeling like Sisyphus, rolling that boulder up the hill, only for it to slip back down to the bottom again. It is becoming increasingly difficult to remain optimistic when you're surrounded by incompetence. We have a Stormont that has two different agendas and, really, there's no moral authority there anymore."
In all the debate, decision-making and fall-out at Stormont, there has been little mention of the closed theatre doors in the last few weeks. Once again, actors, musicians and those who work in the background as technicians or stage hands are feeling like they've been shoved to one side.
It would have been unthinkable that The Mac, in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter, would only be open for only 33 days in 2020, but that is the reality chief executive Anne McReynolds has been dealing with.
"There has been a complete absence of appropriate consideration, despite the best efforts of the Culture Minister. It's been very disappointing," she says.
"Our planning for 2021 is based purely on speculation. We don't have any date for reopening and there is no roadmap to recovery. We don't have a clue.
"I'm not being delusional - we are part of this community and we know what's going on - but we stand ready, willing and able to have an input. We have a role to play, but we're not being allowed to play it."
Jimmy's experience has been all too similar.
"In all the new directions and restrictions, not once has any guidance been given directly to the arts industry," he says.
"We're left here, waiting. By the looks of things, there's going to be another six months of unemployment for people who work in this industry.
"At the Lyric we've been doing what we can, keeping busy, but the theatre is more like a movie set these days.
"We're recording performances to appear on TV or radio, but we so miss the experience of a live audience.
"It's not just us. We're in a position where we can continue with some projects, but we're one of the few. Hundreds of other venues don't have the space that we can utilise to keep things safe."
Looking at the bigger picture, the feeling prevails that the arts sector is not seen as essential.
Jimmy is asking those who feel that way to think again.
"We have always done all that we can to provide enjoyment," he explains.
"The arts in Northern Ireland is a way of life. It's enriching. It adds something to society which no other sector can give.
"You'd be forgiven for thinking Northern Ireland is a nation of shoppers. We're more than that. We need to live as well.
"What I'm looking at now is very scary and bewildering. We can't just sit by. We have to seriously start banging our own drum louder than ever before. We can't just sit back and wait until March, April, maybe even next July, to be told to get back on the horse. There might not be a horse to get back on to."
For Anne, getting access to the Executive's promised funding is critical.
"The situation on funding is ridiculous. There is money sitting there, £7.5m, which isn't enough in any case, but we're told we won't know if anything will be coming until the end of January, possibly into early February. Then we've got until the end of March to spend it. How can we possibly plan anything?" she asks.
"In England, Scotland and Wales, the arts sector emergency funding was released in the summer, or September at the latest.
"Here, we've relied on the resilience, tenacity and determination of actors, musicians, technicians, everyone in the business, to keep going.
"When we hear our politicians saying they want to help the poorest people of the country, they need to look again and they'll see that many of those in the arts sector are among the poorest out there right now.
"At The Mac, we're part of the subsidised arts sector and we will be competing against commercial promoters to gain funding. There has been over £24m in applications. I'm not saying commercial promoters don't have any cultural value - of course they do, and they do a fantastic job - but they're in it to make money. We're in it to provide cultural enrichment, to provide jobs and to provide entertainment for the community we're very much a part of, but a part that's again being neglected.
"For venues like this one to be classed the same as wet pubs is, quite frankly, ridiculous."
For Jimmy, the knock-on effect of consecutive lockdowns has been hard to stomach.
"A big part of the problem we're back in now is that no one was brave enough early on in this crisis to make the difficult decisions," he says.
"Instead, we're all scrambling around with no real direction, and a play without direction turns into a farce.
"Early, brave decisions give us a chance to plan ahead. We can't plan anything when no decisions have been made.
"We do love hearing how enthusiastic people are about the arts and how it's a vital part in their lives.
"However, that enthusiasm has to be backed up by action, hard decisions and some sort of plan for the way ahead. Travelling hopefully isn't enough anymore."
For the artists themselves, travelling hopefully, finding ways of staying creative and developing new outlets online is what 2020 has been all about, but even for the big-name stars of the entertainment circuit, it's been a trial.
Hope, though, springs eternal for Brian Kennedy, an artist who hasn't been without personal trials in recent years.
"Little did I know that when I left the stage in Armagh at St Patrick's Cathedral on March 14, my gig diary would literally vanish for the rest of 2020 like some Harry Potter spell gone wrong," he says.
While spending time alone is nothing strange for Brian, there was a very different feeling of isolation throughout the past year.
"As a writer and recording artist, I'm all too familiar with spending chunks of my creative life in complete solitude inside my own head, but there's always a destination in mind," he says.
"'One day at a time' often rattled around my brain when I was doing six tough months of chemotherapy a year-and-a-half ago, but even through that there was an end date in sight, etched into my diary.
"When will this Covid catastrophe be over? The truth is that no one knows.
"But I reckon if I can survive a childhood on the Falls Road in west Belfast in the worst of times, survive rectal cancer and learn to walk again after a gruelling nine-hour surgery, then I can certainly overcome the Covid cancellations."
Brian has several dates pencilled into his diary for spring, hoping he can finally get back on that stage with performances at the Slieve Donard Hotel, the Stormont Hotel and the Europa in the first two weeks of March.
He has even lined up an intimate gig at Ballygally Hotel in Larne on February 20.
"I am the ultimate optimist. The Facebook Live sessions work and over 160,000 have tuned in," he says.
"That's not bad, but it's not the same as that visceral connection that only happens between artists and live audiences. I really, really miss my gigs."
He's not alone. Venues miss having artists. People miss having venues open. The thrill of the live show is waiting to be rediscovered, but no one knows when that will happen.
"We have so many positives to bring to society. We just need those who make these decisions to realise that," says Anne McReynolds.
"Across the UK, the arts sector is 12 times bigger than the fishing sector. That's too easy to forget. Words are words, but investment is investment. We're dying a slow death."
As 2021 dawns, the wait for resuscitation goes on.