Social media and other internet platforms are finally doing some good in the world. All it took was a global pandemic and musicians wanting to eat and pay their rent.
It’s no secret that many in the service and entertainment industry became jobless overnight, with people still scrambling at the uncertainty of what the future holds. With tours put on hold and festivals canceled, musicians lost hundreds of gigs; not a huge deal for someone like Bono or Bieber, but for musicians whose art is valid, this is a time that is yielding some genuine concern. The current state of the music industry is dictated by live performance; from mid-sized bands all the way down to solo performers, being on the road is the way to generate revenue.
With concerts currently on a hiatus and with an unknown restart date, musicians are now using their websites, Facebook, Instagram, Zoom or sites like “stageit” to “tour.” It’s certainly no equal substitute, but if anything, it’s a valid way to remain connected to your fans while attempting to not have all of your income swirl down the drain.
Local Durango musicians are as affected as anyone else, and they too are doing what they can to continue to make the scene, whether it’s playing solo sets or thinking even more outside the box; for local ukulele player Devin Scott, that’s meant playing internet shows. Scott’s performances happen via Facebook live, which have included typical solo performances or even sing-alongs or dance parties in addition to the more interactive “Workshop Wednesday.”
“It’s a good time,” Scott said in a recent email interview. “People seem to really enjoy them, and it’s a great way to connect with people while we’re all at home not connecting.”
Local singer-songwriter Rob Webster has been hosting a weekly talk/music show via his Facebook page each Monday called “Peace Through Rob.Webster.Music.” This interactive concert features Webster playing and is sponsored by a different local business each week. The social media aspect allows viewers to interact with a performer, asking questions and making requests.
Members of iAM MUSIC are taking a bit of a different approach. At 7 p.m. April 24 via their Facebook page, there will be The iAM MUSIC Fest Live Stream, featuring Sam Kelly and Jesse Ogle of iAM MUSIC screening videos of future iAM MUSIC Festival performers, with proceeds from their show going to the Four Corners Performing Artist Relief Fund.
“All these bands at least have one music video that looks really good and display their best work but while still having a live aspect,” Kelly said. “So we can talk about the fest, we can talk about the bands before we play the music videos. It’s like having a radio show, but we’re doing a live video version of it.”
Most musicians share the same story and the same fear of the open-endedness of the entire situation. When the rug is yanked out from under their performance schedule, with no promise of when the rug will be put back, they’ve got cause for alarm.
“Come June 1, it’s all back to normal and then I could start playing again, that’d be fine,” Kelly said. “But I don’t have any gigs through June now, and I’m holding on to my July gigs, but those could disappear, too. The uncertainty is definitely the worst part.”
Most musicians can’t just up and stop playing; hosting video shows or playing solo shows will never replace a traditional live performance, nor should it. Rhett Miller of national touring rock band Old 97’s has been using a site called “stageit” to host his solo performances. Miller’s attitude is shared by others – he’s playing to generate some income, but like traditional concerts, his performances also offer a bit of an escape from the lockdown life. That escape is as good for the performer as it is for the viewer.
“I’ve done three weeks’ worth of shows and it has been incredibly successful,” he said via email. “Not just in terms of replacing lost income, but it’s given me a strong sense of purpose at a time when I might have gone a little bit crazy.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.