The Covid-19 shutdown has caused a significant loss of income from gigs. I normally play 2-5 gigs a week. That all went away in a 2-day span the 3rd week of March. It was somewhat disorienting; for the first time since the early '70's I had no gigs on the calendar.
Even though the lost income is significant, it hasn't resulted in a corresponding significant lifestyle decline. Why? I was prepared. How? Read, Can You Afford To Be A Musician?
When something paradigm-altering happens, those who actually come out on the other side better off than others are those who can let go of the old paradigm, adapt to the new reality and learn to take advantage of things that are now possible that weren't possible before.
Of course, you have to figure out what those possibilities are and that can be confusing and difficult.
One of the things I've learned from the latest shift is the potential value of leveraging live-stream performances. During the shutdown, the bandleader of one of the groups I play with worked out a deal with a restaurant group for which we have been working steadily for years - decades actually.
The venues were doing carry-out and delivery and just trying to stay afloat. We would come in and set up in the closed restaurant once a week and live-stream a set...for free. We would pimp the menu, the carryout and delivery service and solicit tips by having people call the bar and buy drinks for the band. All designed to make the club money. They had provided musical employment to us, and many other musicians, for years and were always very live-music friendly; we just wanted to give back a little and try to help out.
We connected with the IT guy who ran all the social media sites for the company. That includes several locations in different parts of the country. He cloned the stream to the many different pages and then would later rebroadcast the stream to double the numbers. So we were getting exposure to more than a local audience.
[As an aside for the pros who would understand; besides the basic motivation being to try and help out the club, we chose to stream from the venue rather than from our living room or basement to avoid potential BMI/ASCAP issues.]
The view numbers grew week-by-week until one week there was a several-thousand-dollar bump in orders during the hour we were streaming.
The next week we got paid! We created a gig where there wasn't one before.
Keep in mind that these streamed performances can be saved, edited and used for all kinds of things from now on. We've made contacts as a result of the streaming. Every stream is a sales tool. The view-numbers generated by the stream is a sales tool.
Yes, there is an irritating learning curve - the first stream we did was unusable; it sucked. It looked bad, it sounded bad - really bad! - but week by week we dealt with the issues (lighting, placement, framing, sound, getting the camera to play nice with FaceBook, etc) and steadily improved the quality.
Things have opened up gig-wise a little since then, but the streaming is now incorporated into everything we do. We stream an hour of every gig. Once a week, if we don't have a gig we find a cool setting and do a stream anyway. If we don't have a gig and don't do a live-stream for whatever reason, we can rebroadcast an old stream or part of an old stream.
I'm doing the same thing for every gig I play now; I'm doing at least 3 solo gigs a month and I'm streaming an hour of every gig.
So I'm adjusting the performance; I'm no longer playing to the audience in the club, I'm playing to the streaming crowd as well.
I have to integrate the between-song banter to both. I have to respond to requests from those watching the stream as well as requests coming from the in-house audience.
I have to create the setlist with both in mind. I have to promote the menu and the drink sales to both. It's a juggling act that didn't exist before I started live-streaming performances.
The live-stream is not just a passive recording of a live performance that people watch; it's an interactive part of the performance.
It's part of a new paradigm and if you are still operating from the old paradigm you will not thrive.
If you are sitting around hoping things will go back to the way they were and all your old gigs will come back, well...that's not how things work.
There's been a shift in the ether!
This is now at least the 3rd major ether-shift that's happened in my music business experience over the last 50 years.
It never goes back to the way it was before!
Another thing I've learned is that using a live-stream as a vehicle to merely generate tips via PayPal/Venmo/Cash App etc. is not sustainable; that's the old model.
The livestream has to be part of a bigger picture. Exactly what that bigger picture is and how to adapt to and leverage it is something I'm still trying to figure out, but I've concluded live-streaming is part of that picture and the better at it I get now, the better off I'll be later.
There is opportunity in the chaos; let's find it.
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