A Musician’s Take on the Sudden Live-Streaming Boom

Will my ex be at my live-stream show?

In these days of the Apocalypse, we are still blessed that musicians are showering us with performances via live streaming services. Musicians big and small are out of normal work, and it shows.  Shit is getting real, and while some virtual performances fail to hit the notes, the best virtual streaming concerts acknowledge the new cultural uncertainty and help us all feel human.

The best streaming concerts provide many of the same experiences of a real in-person experience. You may find yourself asking,  ‘’Will my ex be at the same streaming live show as me?” or “Where can I get some of this band’s merch?” Likewise, as a musician, while tuning and primping,  you’ll think, “Why am I sweating and nervous when I’m all alone? Do I have to wear cute shoes if no one can see my feet?” And as someone who has both played these shows and been “in the audience”, it seems like people are still pumped, captivated, and needing the experience more than ever.

There are so many options for shows right now it’s almost difficult to manage which you’re going to watch. Some organized people are helping us with that! Local Austin musician Beth Chrisman created a site with a calendar of upcoming local concerts of independent artists, archives of past ones, with clear links to artist pages and payment options.

NPR and Billboard have lists of  industry supported artists that are pretty comprehensive if you’re looking for more familiar sounds. Also, if someone is famous enough, they have the capacity to alert you when they’re going live. You simply log on to Instagram, and it automatically invites you to watch celebrities singing “Imagine”, simultaneously, in all 12 keys.

What are people looking for when they consume this new-to-many medium? Are they looking to blow off steam, hear familiar melodies, or are they looking for examples of beacons of humanity soldiering on in uncertain times? Or are they just stuck inside, looking at their phones? I think it’s an uncertain combination of it all.

One thing is for certain however, these concerts are helping many of us put food on the table right now. My friend, a young dad, earned enough the other day to keep the wolf from the door for another month. During my show the other night, I made enough to pay almost ¾ of my rent, if rent is even a thing right now.

These concerts are also keeping people sane, and providing us with a beautiful glimpse into the human spirit in dark times. I haven’t left the house for a week, and when I played on Tuesday, I blew off so much steam I felt like my 90 minute set had been a cardio workout, albeit in a dress, makeup and flipflops. “This is what the world needs right now”, “I have the biggest smile ”, and “I didn’t know how much I needed this” filled my chat room when I went live. I was happier than I’d been in weeks, and sang by myself on the porch for hours into the night afterwards. I went to sleep and found my gig stress dream had evolved. The band was onstage in an empty venue all ready to go, but there was no one tall enough to push the “Go Live” button.

Live Streaming
Hello, Jewel

Last night I tuned into the Luck Reunion Show, emceeed by Ray Benson. The leadership and solidarity of big and small names in the music community put me at ease. Willie Nelson, a danged ole diety to many of us, wished us well, made technology jokes, and played us what he called “quaratunes” with his sons. He told us to stay sober, and then giggled. These “Luck Family artists”, Paul Simon, Shovels and Rope, Neil Young, Kurt Vile, etc., were raising money for hand to mouth earners across the industry, bartenders, sound engineers, and servers. They pointed people in the direction of donating to HAAM (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians) and SIMS Foundation, two organizations that keep Austin musicians (and myself!) afloat and healthy.

I went from being jealous of the live-streaming opening acts to feeling like a seen member of a community. Jewel spoke to us from her bedroom about how the biochemical reaction of gratitude helped stop her panic attacks when she was homeless. She sang with such earnestness about how “in the end, only kindness matters”, and I believed her.  The show raised almost 200K, we got to laugh, dance, sing a long, AND look into other peoples’ living rooms without getting arrested! Thanks to the efforts of wonderful humans on both sides of this virtual entertainment boom, it feels like the world isn’t ending.

Jenny Parrott

Jenny Parrott is bleach bottle blondie bear musician and writer. You can catch her on her DIY tours, on the internet, or having deep and shallow conversations on the patio of Dozen Street in Austin with her fantastic friends.

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