These are indeed strange and unprecedented times for most of us. I know that many friends and colleagues have been struggling with anxiety, a feeling of feeling disconnected and simply trying to remain sane in this lockdown scenario, whilst the media relentlessly drowns us in overwhelmingly scary statistics and stories.
Right now, I should be telling you all how amazing my recent shows in Bristol and London were, but I can’t. I would dearly love to share my enthusiasm about my collaboration with Dutch National Ballet and how our ambitious theatrical work GRIMM is about to tour with 30+ shows next month but again I can’t. Like many others, all of my work was cancelled with immediate effect.
Rather than sit back and worry, I felt it was important to immediately embrace the tools at hand, and like many creatives use the power of technology to respond positively. I was meant to be performing at 4:00 pm in a music festival in Bristol that weekend in March, so I made the decision to announce a free live performance at the very same hour, from my studio, with absolute no knowledge of how to do this. I knew there were systems in place that would enable me to do this, but how? Yes, that was the big question.
Learning a new set up
And so, for two days solid, I was immersed in YouTube lessons, online forums, music websites, and emails with friends, to find the best solution.
Most importantly, I wanted it to look professional, but also for me to be able to directly engage with my audience, not only through the music, but in the accompanying chatroom.
Cautious about investing in an expensive webcam, I discovered that my mobile phone was a more than capable replacement. I learned that OBS software allowed me to broadcast in high quality stereo, communicated immediately with the audio interface in my studio and was entirely reliable.
Triple checking is a good idea
I tested out the performance a couple of days before with an unlisted private link, and got the thumbs up from friends in LA, Virginia and Leeds. A huge sigh of relief. And the online concert itself? Well, naturally as the hour struck for the show to begin, the software would not connect and I had a minor panic.
I could see so many people logging on to watch, only to find that I couldn’t convince the technology to work from my end! And, it was entirely my fault, as I had to renew a simple permissions code. Confirmation that triple-checking such things is not foolish at all!
I performed an entirely improvised live set to an international audience of about 1500 people, and then set about answering all the questions that people had in the chat room afterwards. And it was such a joy to find so many friends and so many positive comments there.
I was very conscious that, for electronic music, the audience is very keen to learn how exactly you make things happen, so I made a commitment to remain online and answer all manner of technical questions.
Following on from this very successful live transmission, last Sunday I just spontaneously connected my phone up through this budget Roland GO: Mixer, and was able to broadcast a live show from my studio to about 200 people, which if anything was about the joy of sharing the moment and music with one another.
Making money from online performances
Of course, it’s a joy to offer hope and be charitable, but one also has to make a living.
I offered discount codes on my releases on Bandcamp through social networks, and then used these other opportunities to also promote my own Fan Club which I had just set up. It’s a way to directly share material with committed supporters that might otherwise never be heard, and helps pays the bills which never cease.
Music connects us all and is a social experience, but for many people this isn’t possible or even practical, sometimes for geographical reasons, sometimes because they simply don’t like crowds or for mobility reasons, or, as at present, because of a pandemic. And yes, we all still want to hear music and enjoy life too! As such, tools that Bandcamp provides have been a phenomenal reward.
Creating opportunities to connect when times are hard
Emails have been literally flooding in in recent days, and it’s clear that people are feeling bored, distracted, unfocused and frequently uninspired.
I encourage musicians to share as much as they can in terms of time and commitment, to use these largely free and accessible tools to offer something back. Your audience and new listeners will very much appreciate this and it can only lead to good. Your wallet might not expand but your heart will glow with love.
For many people today, this situation is one of the toughest situations they’ve had to live through but we can all find a positive way forward through it. Use the ultimate power of our shared superhero weapon – music- to maintain good in our world!