Many of us for whom live music is a major nutrient in our spiritual diet are familiar with the concept of a “couch tour,” in which we pay a one-time fee to livestream a concert and watch at home, in lieu of attending it in person. Mostly, we’ve taken advantage of this to augment our live music experience, not to replace it. But in the wake of enforced bar and club closings, drastic times demand drastic measures.
Soundman and lighting designer Dave Guilford – who runs Ripe Audio and oversees live sound for many shows at Buffalo Iron Works and the Live at Larkin series, among others – and Buffalo.FM proprietor Marc Odien have launched Band Together Buffalo, a virtual concert series that will allow bands to perform for digital audiences and receive “digital tips” for their efforts.
“We hope to be able to build some income for local affected artists by building Buffalo's first audience-less concert series, with two or three acts per night," Guilford said. "We will specialize in event live streaming with high-quality audio and video, which we hope gives us a platform to really get professional concert content. We utilize a virtual tip jar so that viewers can give it directly to the artist, in addition to the guaranteed payment that we are able to offer.”
Odien recalled waking up last week to more than half a dozen cancellations for work for his video production company. The same happened with Gilford and his audio business. "Since then, things have only gotten worse. We need a way to keep working while helping others who are in a similar situation. Without live music, my website Buffalo.fm goes dark,” Odien said.
Band Together Buffalo performances will be hosted at a rotating list of area music venues, with artists performing to audience-less clubs for a pre-determined stipend. Live streams will be offered via Buffalo.FM, and members of the virtual audience will have the option of augmenting the stipend by donating directly to the artists, via Venmo or PayPal.
Individual musicians also are taking matters into their own hands, and performing mini gigs from their homes or rehearsal spaces, via Facebook Live and You Tube.
“In the words of the late Hunter S. Thompson, ‘When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,’ ” said Jason Staniszewski, a full-time Buffalo musician who routinely performs at least four to ix gigs per week. “That quote has never made more sense to me than it does right now. Being a musician here in Buffalo, one who feeds off the energy of people, and relies on these now-canceled gigs to support my family – myself and others like me have to dive into a new medium and and a new universe, and that is online streaming at home. I set up a Venmo and PayPal account that I've been adding to the description section of my Facebook Live streams. This way, folks can leave a digital tip in my tip jar if they like. Or just watch for free and enjoy a moment of something outside of all this craziness.”
The response from fans has so far been strong and positive. Guilford and Odien are counting on that support growing in the coming weeks, as the live music scene around most of the country goes on hiatus.
“I certainly believe that online streaming will do nothing but grow in the next few days weeks and months,” Guilford said. “Our start-up is to help artists who are full- time musicians because they will be hit the hardest without another way to supplement income. So bands who want to get involved are encouraged to fill out our artist application at our website or on Facebook. Fans who want to get involved should tip or donate. Find local businesses who want to sponsor a community building solution in a time of social distancing. But easiest of all watch the live stream and enjoy local music. I see this is a unique circumstance that we can all make the most out of.”
For Staniszewski, life as a musician familiar with the in-the-moment demands of improvisation has made him feel at least somewhat prepared for a moment like the present one.
“Life as a creative entrepreneur is always about pivoting,” he said. “The one thing that the Grateful Dead and Phish, along with a ton of jazz musicians and others have taught me, is to improvise. That is just what I have to do, and I hope to help others in the scene will as well.
"We will evolve, we will get through this, and we will survive.”