2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, including gigging musicians. The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the music industry, forcing concerts, outdoor festivals and just about every other event to be rescheduled for 2021 or simply cancelled. This has left music fans and performers frustrated, disappointed and desperate for the special connection only music can provide. Luckily, nothing can stop the creative spirit, and musicians are reinventing ways to keep playing and reach their audience both in person (at a safe distance) and virtually. Here are a few ways they are doing it.
While nothing can take the place of the live music experience, musicians are staying creative and live-streaming concerts online. Josie Quick and her husband, Tom Carleno perform as local Denver group, Perpetual Motion and have been doing lunch-time concerts on Facebook Live during the pandemic. “Before the lockdown we had tour dates scheduled in Washington State, Oregon and California. We had summer concerts booked and were performing at the Mercury Café, the Muse and Swallow Hill. All that was scrubbed (because of COVID-19). We got on board with online performing two or three months after the lockdown started.”
Social Distance Concerts
Shortly after the lockdown, Carla Sciaky, a multi-instrumentalist-folksinger-songwriter based in Denver, CO “realized people were craving live music. I was shellshocked from the pandemic…so, I went outside to my driveway and just began performing. Thanks poured out from people.”
With new ideas come new challenges, and in the case of online performing there’s a big one: what happens if something goes wrong with the technology?
Josie explains, “We tried Zoom to have a larger audience. But the first Zoom concert (the screen) greyed out. We’re not very tech savvy, we’ve been forced into it. (Before the pandemic) when I showed up for a gig, I was in performance brain. My mind was just on playing well and delivering an enjoyable experience, not the promoting of it or the tech part. But now I have to have the tech mind and the artist mind (simultaneously).”
Carla experienced similar tech issues but had some training with the non-profit organization Folk Alliance International. They produce an annual conference “where vendors, presenters, agents, musicians…everyone associated through folk music come together. The conference happened in February 2020 and then the pandemic hit.” The organization started offering weekly Zoom informational sessions and one focused on livestreaming and performing platforms. Carla chose Zoom because she can see her audience. “For me, the performing was always about connecting with the audience. My first Zoom concert was in April. It was a steep learning curve. At first I didn’t get the settings right and it sounded terrible. But I watched YouTube videos to figure out the settings and the next concert was much better.”
Online Performing Platforms
There are so many platforms and software available for online performing including: Facebook Live, Instagram Live, YouTube Live, Zoom, Livestream, ViewStub, Periscope and Twitch. Each has its unique features, rules and limitations, so it’s best to do research and decide which one is best for your performance style and needs.
Those platforms are great when you play solo, but multiple performers playing in more than one location can be tricky. However, it is possible. The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra was successful in creating a video featuring 19 musicians. They each performed with a click track to make sure they were all on the same tempo throughout the recordings. The video took about a week to produce.
Connecting with the Audience
Carla has been able to connect with a new international audience. “I did my first two Zoom concerts midday, then my daughter in the Netherlands and some people in Europe were able to watch. I was nervous and felt like the world was watching because people all over the world could watch.”
Josie got the word out about Perpetual Motion’s Facebook Live concerts by “sending an email to our mailing list to let them know we were trying something difference.” She and Tom are becoming more tech savvy and upping their concert game as they go. At first “we were just using the iPad, then I watched a performance and thought it could be better, so we bought a webcam. We’re still experimenting and trying to find the best way to deliver an enjoyable experience for people to listen. At first it felt weird to not have interaction from the audience. Thankfully, we’ve got each other so we can interact. The camera doesn’t hit our feet, so we wear our slippers, and set up and tear down is a lot easier.”
And the Beat Goes On…
Want to listen to concerts online? Swallow Hill Music, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the joy of music to life every day, hosts live music on Friday and Saturday evenings on Facebook Live. All shows start at 6pm MST and feature a different artist every show! Check them out at Swallow Hill Live. Billboard.com also has a list of online concerts. You can learn more about Josie and Tom on Instagram and on Facebook. And visit Carla’s website for more information about her and her music.
Are you a musician performing concerts online? Let us know what rewards and challenges you have encountered. And be sure to connect with us (in person or on social media) at the Denver Folklore Center, the one-stop shop for all your acoustic musical needs.