Inside Music in the Pandemic New Normal

The energy, the audience, the room, the sound, the mood...that’s all changed

Live music has always been about the moment... The energy, the audience, the room, the sound, the mood... But that’s all changed.

And for countless Sonoma County musicians, not only did they lose their livelihood, their only source of income—they also lost their outlet for creative expression. But many have taken their creativity and channeled it in new directions: tapping into an online audience that is hungry for music, hungry for connection and community, hungry for reminders of what they knew as normal.

I spoke with a variety of musicians to try and get a feel for what this new reality has meant for them. And I should say US, because I am also a performing musician that has only put a toe in the water of live streaming, and these insights have been inspiring to me—as I hope they will be to you.

I had wonderful conversations with Benjamin Mertz, Stella Heath, David Luning and producer Jann Eyrich. Each brought a different perspective, and also reinforced many similarities.

The biggest challenge for most has been the equipment, the process itself. Lots of trial and error, lots of live goofs to a fortunately very understanding audience. There are essentially two ways to go: one is to pre-record your video at home, get the take you like, and publish that live on social media—Facebook and YouTube being the primary venues.

The other option is to go directly live, usually on Facebook Live. And then you get into a whole other set of considerations...

Most musicians will record and/or go live with a microphone and often a simple mixer. David Luning likes an EV mic into a Focusrite Scarlett preamp. Benjamin Mertz uses the Blue Yeti USB mic into QuickTime on his Mac laptop and also creates videos in iMovie. Stella Heath prefers a Sennheiser mic, as well as a DSLR camera to record video. And as the last step, many musicians utilize OBS (Open Broadcaster Software: https://obsproject.com ) which is free streaming software that’s a very helpful interface between them and their broadcasted video. There’s definitely a learning curve, but it can be worth it to help ensure a higher quality video for your fans—and future new fans.

For many musicians, seeing and hearing themselves in such an intimate setting was very new, and was awkward at first. Not to mention wanting to get their “performance energy” going when there is no audience. But as David pointed out, during his streaming shows he began to see real-time comments from people, and began getting energized by live input from fans that he realized he would likely never hear otherwise.

Combined with the adrenaline of realizing that“everything I do here will live on the internet forever” provided the kind of energy that motivated his performances. “You can’t see them, but you see their feedback and you know and feel they are there.”

Stella agreed that the comments during real-time streaming provide a unique and inspirational feedback from her audience. She actually prefers live streaming rather than pre-recording. Like she and others have shared, it’s just plain weird to talk to the camera in place of real people, and most of us never really know exactly where to look when we talk to that camera.

The one video I posted (as part of the Occidental Center For The Arts “Arts In Our Hearts” virtual variety show fundraiser last month) highlighted far more of my nostrils than my eyes... Something I would love to do over!

David Luning
David Luning while Live Streaming in June

Watch David: https://www.davidluning.com

David was also thrilled to discover new audiences around the world were now watching his streams—people he would have never reached otherwise. Audiences in Brazil, for example, where he had never been, were watching him perform. And even more exciting were folks posting up videos of themselves watching his performance!

Stella pointed out that her fan base has definitely grown more nationally through these pandemic broadcasts. In fact, she was invited to represent California for the “United We Stand: Music Across America” streaming concert featuring 50 musicians with all proceeds going directly to the George Floyd Memorial Fund. (www.facebook.com/groups/UWSConcert)

Many artists also follow up by re-posting their Facebook and YouTube videos on their own websites, but that can sometimes be problematic. For example, Benjamin pointed out that when he recently got spontaneously inspired to sit at the piano and send out an emotionally-charged version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” via Facebook Live, his performance drew lots of attention very quickly—but he discovered there was no way for him to download his own Facebook Live video to re-post on YouTube. So an important lesson he shared is that it’s best to record first on your personal equipment and then publish it so that you have control.

Benjamin also pointed out how important it is for musicians to create a Facebook “Artist Page” to broadcast on rather than your own personal page. The Artist (or Band) Page allows you to develop followers and subscribers. Artist pages are indexed in search engines, so that anyone on the Internet can search and view your page, even non-Facebook users. When fans interact on your page, that also shows up on their own Facebook page, increasing your visibility.

So the spirit of Sonoma County musicians is alive and well. It’s just... different. But everyone I spoke to agreed that they have been pleasantly surprised by the opportunities this has provided for their own personal musical growth—a chance to stretch and try new things, which IS after all, what creativity is all about. And there is definitely an audience out there.

And this is why we LOVE Sonoma County!

BENJAMIN MERTZ: BenjaminMertz.com | www.facebook.com/BenjaminMertz

STELLA HEATH: StellaHeathMusic.com | www.facebook.com/Stella.Heath

DAVID LUNING: DavidLuning.com | www.facebook.com/DavidLuning

ORDINARY MIRACLES: www.OrdinaryMiracles.com | www.facebook.com/OrdinaryMiraclesMusic

Benjamin Mertz: Tear Your Kingdom Down [https://youtu.be/mIZuNRUCoJI].

Stella Heath and Skyler Stover - Music City Lockdown Sessions [https://youtu.be/XGIbad_7JLU]

David Luning Livestream (6/24/20) only be on Facebook: [https://www.facebook.com/davidluning/videos/275815143475182/]

David Rosen's albumOrdinary Miracles @ https://ordinarymiracles.com

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