The second week of March has proven to be catastrophic for the live entertainment industry as coronavirus fears sparked a wave of cancellations of concerts and festivals throughout the US. Starting with last week’s cancellation of South by Southwest, this decimation has hit the entire music industry from major touring acts like the Eagles to small bands playing venues in the entertainment hub near you.
The response from many musicians has been to go virtual. Patreon, a major tech platform created by creatives to support artists and entertainers, has announced a “Weird Stream-a-thon” featuring several musicians and interactive conversations about how creatives can stay informed, support members of he community hardest hit, and adapt their endeavors for a dangerous, virus-threatened world. But it doesn’t take a huge tech platform to go virtual – any band with a rehearsal space and a smartphone can go live on facebook.
So what are some of the options for performers to take their concerts online, and for music patrons to support struggling bands?
The ability to stream online is available to anyone with a smartphone and a data connection, but there are several options to take your concert online with all the sophistication of a professional production. Stageit.com bills itself as a “online concert venue” and in addition to streaming your show it offers online ticketing, interactivity with the audience, and show archiving. For bands who what to go very hi-tech, wave launched in 2019 to stream full virtual reality concerts to the world. But of course both Youtube Live and Facebook Live have the largest audiences on the planet, and when bands choose to stream through existing social platforms they aren’t forcing their fans to download any new apps.
Tickets and Donations
So it’s easy to get your show out there, but how do you make money off of it? If a band is using an open streaming method like Facebook, they can still take donations through payment apps like CashApp or Venmo (or even directly through facebook.) But of course signing their fans up as Patreon followers helps them not to just get the one-time ticket, but supports artists month after month.
Merch and Downloads
Of course bands can continue to try to make money the old-fashioned way. Though not quite as fun as a carefully curated merch table, most bands have online storefronts where they sell their shwag and their tracks. Websites like missedtour.org are explicitly geared towards helping bands sell a tour t-shirt when you can’t get to their live show, and will be particularly valuable to artists who have to cut their live gigs. As far as downloads, Bandcamp is still the platform of choice for small bands selling albums, and of course major acts monetize through iTunes.
Minnesota’s Springboard for the Arts has a comprehensive list of resources for creatives dealing with the crisis – it offers emergency relief for Minnesota artists, but provides great information for any performer who can seek out crowdsourced support and local resources in their area.
Support your favorite Artists
We know people across the entire nation (and world) going to feel the hurt in the next few weeks as this pandemic impacts not just the music industry but transportation, service industry jobs, local retail, and many other businesses. Please keep in mind that the breathtaking variety of music and culture can only stay strong through the support of independent artists who are going to be hurt most by this scare. Even if you don’t want to risk going out of the house, take the opportunity in the next few weeks of ‘social distancing’ to reach out to your favorite artists online and spend a few dollars with them.
Don’t let COVID stop the music!