Reasonable Expectations in the Time of Livestream Performances
Almost every other DJ or producer, singer-songwriter and shredder is broadcasting performances on social media, but are they adequately prepared?
If you happen to open Instagram at any point in the evening, chances are you’ll be seeing at least one notification popping up about an artist going live. Whether it’s brands, promoters or artists themselves, virtual concerts have quickly become an almost daily occurrence in the few weeks that the world has been on lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Since India’s day-long partial shutdown (Janata Curfew) on March 22nd, there’s been a national lockdown that will continue until mid-April, which has spawned several livestreamed concerts. Where first it was treated as a quick fix to get over canceled gigs, virtual gigs are definitely the norm and might just be for at least another month or two, as the live music space eventually hobbles back.
Interestingly enough, while the formidable crowdpullers of India’s independent and commercial music space have been worthy entertainers and showcasing their craft, there are a lot of other artists who simply have no structure or spunk to their livestreams. Goof-ups and out-of-tune guitars are one thing, or even forgetting your lyrics, but the unforgivable part for any fan or listener tuning into a livestreamed concert is finding an under-prepared performer.
“There’s a lot of bedroom content, which is the easiest thing to do, in a sense,” composer and producer Clinton Cerejo says. A lot of times, the immediacy of the digital medium on social platforms means that one could announce a livestream or not even build up to it and straight away jump into a performance, without ever questioning if it’s necessary. Surely, no artist shows up to a club to perform unannounced?
The artists’ sincerity is not least in question at this point, but often there’s no flow or connectivity and a hurriedness, perhaps affected largely by any artists’ self-awareness. Cerejo says we’re already getting to the point where people have to look for a needle in a haystack. He adds, “If you spend eight hours working on music, spend one hour recording the video but you should spend seven hours learning first to be better every time you do it.”
Independent artists have seen everything from double digit viewers to more than a few hundred if they’re popular enough in terms of followers, which is perhaps as close as it gets to a reflection of the numbers drawn at gigs. If they aren’t already, every artist ought to be treating a livestream concert like they would a regular performance at a club, café or small room.
American indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie’s frontman Ben Gibbard captured during his livestream concerts.
Understandably, artists are much more conscious in front of a camera screen than when they are up on stage, but Cerejo says a lot more is at stake when you’re at a live gig, so it helps to loosen up. “If you don’t let your guard down online, then where will you do it?” he asks.
While comments are much more noticeable when they start popping up on screen as artists perform – and these can be snarky ones from trolls or genuine warmth from long-time followers or even constructive feedback from first-time listeners – it’s not too far removed from live concerts. If anything, Cerejo says it’s way more difficult to give a crowd of thousands at a college festival what they want compared to strangers firing away on their keyboards. “I feel sometimes that the combined energy of a live audience is much harder to deal with than receiving messages online,” he adds.
The digital concert game is nothing new – it’s in fact been in development for decades now – but in this time of staying indoors for artists and music fans alike, it’s important that artists accept this as their reality for at least a few months now. With brands also making this a paid gig for performers and some putting it behind a paywall, perhaps it’s time artists prep for the virtual stage like they would for its well-known, real-life counterpart.