The COVID-19 outbreak has taken a physical, emotional and economic toll on people around the world. People are not allowed to congregate, except for essential workers. This led to layoffs and little chance to earn a living for many. In music, the “gig economy” was devastated, as show after show, was cancelled. Whether you are Alice Cooper, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra or a club cover band in Kamloops, it did not matter. Along with losing the gigs and the income, musicians are losing the ability to practice and socialize with friends and colleagues. That also takes a toll. Early on, some musicians were looking at alternatives to air their musical performances. The Internet and social platforms have emerged as a way to do this. Some performer’s shows are free. Others are working on obtaining some income for the shows. The first local group to broadcast a live stream show were Ryan 7. This band consists of vocalist Sabrina Weeks and her partner Mike Hilliard, who plays guitar and also provides some vocals.
I recently posed a few questions to Weeks. “Ryan 7, were the first musicians that I heard of, to decide to air live performances, just after news of the pandemic came down the pipe. How did this come about? Weeks replied, “I was part of a Facebook Group called caremongers, where people were coming together and offering ways that people could help each other. We started the live streams as a way to connect people, allowing them a way to escape the craziness of the pandemic for a little while. It was a way that we felt we could help.” She went on tell me that Ryan 7 is streaming on Tuesdays and Fridays at 7 PM PST on Facebook and that they are looking at adding more performances on other platforms. Popular? You bet. As of April 5th they were getting between 1000 and 2000 plays per concert. As Weeks and Hilliard are popular cruise ship entertainers, people are tuning in from all over the world. When asked how long they plan on continuing these popular shows, Weeks replied, “We plan on doing these shows as long as people are interested in seeing them.” The shows are free to watch. If one wishes, they can leave a tip or a donation for the musicians, but it is not compulsory.
There is access to past performances on either their personal or group pages on Facebook.
Next, Western Canada Theatre had to postpone their production of Chelsea Hotel: The Songs of Leonard Cohen. The entire cast was in Kamloops. Some had nowhere to go, as they had leased out their apartments for the duration of the show. Western Canada Theatre honoured their commitment to the cast and housed them in the Riverland Inn. As a gesture of thanks, the cast put on the show, which was live-streamed from the hotel.
They used two top balconies and the two patios below the balconies and the rooms as their stage. They put on the show, to the delight of a large Kamloops online audience. It was relatively chilly, but the musicians, who were not partners, kept their distance and performed the songs. It was magic! Some of the highlights were Chelsea Hotel #2, along with Closing Time, and Lover, Lover, Lover. Some reported being moved to tears by the performance.
Since then, a number of other local musicians have began using these platforms to stream live performances. On April 4th Dave Coalmine did a live-streamed performance, to test the technology, as he has a two hour “pay for view” show scheduled for Saturday April 11 at 8 PM.
I asked Coalmine why did he decide to do it a live-stream show and how this came about? He replied, “I recently gained an interest in creating Internet content, so I happened to have all the tech I needed sitting in my home. I partly chose to do it because fans were asking but deep down I think I just wanted to regain some control during this chaotic time and give myself a focus with hopes of it being a revenue stream.” I asked him how long he plans to continue these shows? He said, “That will have a lot to do with internet interest. My Crowdcast subscription includes 5 hours of streaming, so there’ll definitely be a second paid live stream, probably Sat April 25th. Beyond that, will depend on whether the streams are profitable. For the preliminary show, Coalmine stated that he was told that this first steam had a solid 40 plus viewers that tuned in for most of it. The viewers were mostly friends, family and fans. “The steam was on FB so it was my Facebook peeps.”
As it was a test run, their were some issues, but Coalmine has worked them out. I asked him if performing these shows contribute to his emotional well-being? Coalmine answered, “Oh heck yes, I didn’t realize how much til I started streaming and realized I was trying to fill a void, not performing live, had left. I didn’t even really understand til I was in front of the camera thinking ‘oh yeah, performing, I missed this’. I put in fourteen hour days this week learning to Live Cast & in the process lost sight of the most important thing, the music. I intend to take the lessons learned and have a more music focused mindset for the next one. Thank you to absolutely anyone taking the time to support my musical endeavours.” Facebook keeps the live streams so Saturday’s show is available on his Facebook page: /DaveCoalmine, Dave Coalmine plans on doing another free test live-stream show on Wednesday April 8 at 7 PM on Facebook at /DaveCoalmine.
The big two hour special will be Saturday April 11 at 8 PM. It can be accessed at www.crowdcast.io/dave-coalmine-live
The musicians mentioned above are adapting to difficult circumstances. They are dealing with a medium that is new to them and learning as they go. They interact verbally with the audiences and often take requests while live on the air. The audiences don’t expect perfection and seem truly grateful for live musical and chat interaction with the musicians. There are now plenty of options out there. Check out your local people first. You will be pleasantly surprised.