By Taylor Siolka
While the COVID-19 pandemic has been disruptive to nearly every industry, it has completely devastated others. Live music is one such industry that has been hit the hardest. As crowded events remain largely banned, performance venues are finding it nearly impossible to operate in a way that is both safe and financially viable. And as they continue to flounder, the musicians that rely on them are left in the wake.
Brian Adrian Koch, half of indie folk duo Dead Lee, says they’ve had close to 50 shows canceled since March. “We’ve just been adapting to what’s possible. For months, that meant nothing… except live streaming from our living room.”
But musicians like Koch are starting to get creative and discovering alternative avenues to reach their audiences.
“The streaming shows were fun but removed the crucial element of co-existing in an actual physical space with an audience,” says Koch. “In the last two months, we’ve played a handful of outdoor, socially distanced shows. We’ve performed three times at an old elementary school that’s been turned into a gorgeous, multi-functional community arts center.”
However, the biggest opportunity for growth in the live music industry could be right in our own backyards, literally. With many people avoiding bars and restaurants, small private gatherings like neighborhood barbecues are becoming increasingly popular. And some savvy hosts are enhancing the experience for their guests by hiring local musicians to play live for what is being dubbed as “tune-to-table” parties.
“If it makes sense financially and is safe, we’re always interested in working,” says Koch. With smaller, controlled crowds, private parties may be the safest avenue to recapture the joy of live music. There is no certainty regarding the future of the industry, but this new direct-to-audience model certainly appears to be a win-win for fans and musicians alike.