With social distancing measures of necessity upending daily life nationwide, area musicians are exercising their creativity to compensate for lost income. Soul artist Chris Pierce, swing guitarist Jonathan Stout, troubadour Dan Navarro, gypsy jazz ensemble Hot Club of LA, and singer-songwriter Mary Scholz are just a handful of the acts that have streamed impromptu living room concerts via social media in recent days to buoy audience spirits.
In South Pasadena, Blue Guitar organizer Brad Colerick, who hosts Wine & Song songwriter showcases each Wednesday and jazz nights each Thursday at the Arroyo Seco Golf Course, last week announced a plan to reduce seating in compliance with social distancing guidelines and stream shows online. In the tumult of recent days, however, those plans have been scrapped, as touring artists abruptly lost better-paying anchor gigs and bars and performance venues have been ordered to close.
“People were being really good about buying a $2 ticket, leaving a $10 donation,” Colerick says of the voluntary ticketing system he had set up through Facebook Live that enabled viewers to make additional donations to artists. “I was getting all kinds of notes from people who were really excited we were planning to do this. But it doesn’t seem to be in the cards with the rapid pace of everything that’s happening.”
He has been exploring ways to help artists live-stream shows, but planning anything in this moment is like building a house in a tornado. Updates will be posted at blueguitar.club.
“If we get some good weather,” he says, “I may try to live-stream from my backyard next week. It’s quite a moving target, isn’t it?”
Dolly Ramirez, frontwoman of CoolHouse, is the driving force behind Divine Rebel Music, which hosts house concerts, the 2nd Sunday Songwriter Series at Oceanview Restaurant in Montrose, and the recently launched Songs at the Café bimonthly showcase at My Place Café in Pasadena. Bay Area troubadour Michael McNevin has been slated to be Songs at the Café’s guest on March 27 — and the show is going on. But he will perform from his Mud Puddle Shop in Fremont, and viewers can make suggested $10-$15 donations via PayPal or Venmo. McNevin and Divine Rebel Music are co-hosting the watch party via Facebook; links and details will be posted at divinerebelmusic.com and facebook.com/events/481174289234406.
“Some of us are more tech-savvy than others, and I’m calling friends and musicians who are less tech savvy and offering to help them — this isn’t the time to hoard that information,” Ramirez says. “We all need to survive.”
Marquee names are striving to spread hope and awareness along with music online. Yo-Yo Ma saluted health care workers with the Sarabande from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3. Michael Franti, whose wife Sara is an emergency room nurse, is posting installments of his Home Concert World Tour on social media. Dan Zanes and his wife Claudia are sharing Social Isolation Song Series videos of them performing upbeat, family-friendly tunes from their home. Hollywood-based interactive performance portal StageIt is hosting Shut In & Sing, a series of online concerts by Americana, country and folk artists. Brown Paper Tickets is offering ways for people to purchase tickets to future events and/or make small donations online to help independent theaters, arts nonprofits, bookstores and cultural series survive.
As scores of musicians post lengthy lists of gigs canceled into late spring, conscientious fans are asking, “What can I do to help?” Artists are responding to the crisis by creating more music, artwork and stories, and placing themselves at the service of their immediate communities. Here are several ways music lovers can show their support.
~ Ask radio stations to spin music by local artists you like.
~ Visit your favorite artists’ websites and donate something to their digital tip jar.
~ Download your favorite artists’ music — preferably an entire album and not
just a single. Buy merch directly from their websites.
~ If you stream music online, stream it frequently via a service to which you
subscribe, not for free; streaming royalties are minuscule.
~ If you bought tickets to a show that has been canceled, and your budget al
lows, consider letting the artist keep that money.
~ If the artist lives nearby, and they teach an instrument you want to learn,
take lessons. See if they need help with basic necessities.
~ Follow your favorite artists’ and arts organizations’ blogs and social media
accounts to keep up with news about online events and to offer encouragement.
~ If your favorite artist has a Patreon community, join it. If they’re uploading new music you’ll be among the first to hear it, and your subscription will help them endure this sudden wipeout of income. Every little bit helps.
“This is how we make a living,” Ramirez says. “We’re just trying to be as resourceful as possible and also spread the love to other people. What else can we do?”