With touring on hold for the foreseeable future, enterprising artists have been turning to digital performances and spaces.
Musicians have banded together in the virtual sphere to stage benefit shows like Global Citizen’s One World: Together At Home and Level’s Inside Voices. Major label artists have joined online radio or feeds on Instagram Live. With the accessibility provided by technology, artists have a range of choice for experimenting with new approaches to performance.
For those either on tour or about to embark on one, the scramble for a quick alternative sent many artists to the digital world.
Giving new meaning to “bedroom-pop,” alt-pop project Porches placed his virtual audience inside the same apartment where he wrote and recorded much of his latest album. Providing listeners with a front-row seat to his creative environment and process, it was essentially a MTV Unplugged residency, devising new context for his performance.
Along with artists and brands, audiences have also helped to redraw the boundaries of a performance. In March, popular fan sub-reddit r/Indieheads decided their own lineup by organizing a two-day live streaming festival featuring emerging acts like Dogleg, oso oso, and Lightning Bug.
Such examples can help guide performers finding their footing in this new paradigm. For anyone ready to stage their own show, here’s what you can do to get started.
A bedroom show presents obvious logistical differences from a gig at your regular local venue. Consider, accordingly, the areas where you may need to upgrade your set-up. To start, you’ll need your computer, an audio interface, a microphone, and headphones. If you’re live streaming a performance, rather than recording one to be replayed, be prepared with a full PA system or studio speakers, and an 8-channel mixing board.
A tall ask for those who may not be able to access this equipment at the ready or financially. But that shouldn’t deter you from putting on a quality performance.
“I’ve been keeping it simple and just doing vocals and backing tracks for my virtual performances,” says Brooklyn singer-songwriter BAYLI, who recently partnered with queer online dance party Club Quarantine to stage a Zoom performance celebrating her latest single, “boys lie.” “That’s only because I don’t have all the required equipment needed for a full set with guitar, drums/electronic pads, vocal chain, etc.”
Though your performance at home won’t be the same as one at a venue, soundcheck is still a must.
“Whether it’s pre-recorded, live acoustic, or live full band, you have to make sure you correctly route and test your audio before showtime,” says BAYLI.
KEEP IT CLOSE
A stay-at-home performance presents a distinct opportunity for artists to connect more intimately with their audience. Tailoring your performances to specific cities (as if you were still on tour) and engaging with your audience by soliciting requests energizes your show format.
“I actually like performing in the virtual live space,” BAYLI adds. “Maybe we have just been lucky enough to play fun parties, but people are always invigorated to dance and let loose on Zoom parties and livestreams. Actually, people seem more engaged than when I’ve performed at venues. It feels simpler to catch people’s attention and we have a wider landscape to play in because it’s all digital.”
PERSONALIZE YOUR PERFORMANCE
Personalizing your performances provides an incentive for your audience to tune in. As virtual performances pick up in popularity, you’ll have to contend with other sources of entertainment, not just in the music world. It’s important to leave no stone untouched; flex your creative resourcefulness by considering this a creative challenge: Create a pre-show content series and have fun with it.
Grumpy‘s promotional strategy for her Inside Voices performance is an example of savvy, accessible marketing for any artist. Offer merch, host a meet-and-greet in the DMs, and share your performance playlist.
PICK THE RIGHT LAUNCH PAD
Instagram Live has emerged as a popular choice for livestream events, treating us to ad-hoc music festivals, sponsored shows, and battles between hip-hop royalty. With features like pinned comments and performance stickers, it’s a first-choice platform to promote fan interaction during your show.
“Live stream performances are a lot less anxiety-ridden for me,” says artist Jessi Blue. “I’m autistic, so I find that live performances can be overwhelming for me a lot of the time; it’s easier to react to people’s words in the chat. Live streaming creates a deeper connection with my audience because they get to see me when I’m not totally overwhelmed and I have a chance to respond to everyone’s individual messages and recognize them by name and thank them for their support.”
But there are a range of options with additional integrations and tools to help cultivate the experience you have in mind.
For platforms with built-in donation tools, consider Facebook Live, Twitch, or Twitter’s Periscope. Along with a tipping function, YouTube Live also offers merch integrations that can quickly connect your audience to your online store.
Most important of all, build your show where your audience already exists. Each major social platform has a native live streaming tool that will allow you to meet your audience where they’re at.
At a moment when performance can provide a much-needed moment of levity for fans, bringing the show to your listeners is both an artistic imperative and an opportunity to make this new space your own.