Live Music in a Socially Isolated World

by Ryan Haughey

In these ever-uncertain times of isolation, musicians and artists are taking a big hit. Due to the kiboshing of social gathering, live shows and yearly festivals are being cancelled left and right, and we are all itching to experience music as a community once again. From shows at the Handsome Daughter to jam nights at the Times Changed, our community is struggling to feel the togetherness that live music brings to our city. 

Almost daily I see artists pouring their hearts out during performances on videos or livestreams just for the sake of performing. Performing onstage in front of a group of people – no matter how many – is a shot of adrenaline, and quarantine has taken that away from the local music scene. However, these livestreams aren’t all so bad a replacement for live performances.

Winnipeg loop pedal artist and recipient of WCMA 2019 Francophone Artist of the Year, Rayannah was directly affected right at the beginning of quarantine, as she was forced to cancel her planned tour. Rayannah says that livestreaming comes with its fair share of pros and cons.

“The various livestream series’ put in place to provide artist fees for performers were a swift and important response to the current crisis. That being said, there’s a concurring pressure to be present online and perform for free,” she says. “That’s a challenge given the fact that our livelihoods have been affected so profoundly. Many share the concern that our audiences could get used to accessing concerts free of charge.”

She also says that the flip side to that is the push to support artists financially without the assistance of live, in-person concerts by buying music and merch. “Another positive piece to all this is that concerts have been made accessible to people who may not have been able to enjoy them in the past whether because of inaccessible spaces, scheduling conflicts and obligations, or financial barriers,” she says.

“There can be something lovely about the raw and casual nature of livestreams,” Rayannah states. “They can be vulnerable and touching, and show us a different side of the artists we know and love. They can also create a sense of community among the people watching, and that’s a precious thing especially now.”

And Rayannah is right. The sense of togetherness that we all crave can be felt by creating a space for a community to occupy. Isolation can be hard on many, and local groovy musician and songwriter Jeremy Haywood (known commonly as Jaywood) offers some great tips for artists nurturing creativity in isolation. 

“I’d say you just got to know when to give yourself breaks to let your imagination play,” he says. “Rather than working on something brand new, go back and work on some smaller ideas. Do some covers and give yourself a win when recording and writing, it’ll help gas you up!” 

Jaywood also recommends making other creative output, like music videos, interviews, podcasts, etcetera. He says that this is a good time to share yourself with people, to show them who you are. “It’s been so great to see some artists not even skip a beat!”

Jaywood admits to having a few troubles with livestreaming, but he’s glad that it’s formed a way for people to interact during this time and experience music. “I wish there was a way you could see the people you’re performing to, that way you can kind of get that in-the-same-room feeling,” he says. “All in all, I think (livestreaming) is great, I look forward to the next innovative ways of staying in touch.”

Rayannah says that more and more people are moving toward pre-recorded performances. “It creates a better work environment for us as performers – we don’t have to worry about the feed glitching or cutting out while we play – and dramatically increases both the video and audio quality of what we’re putting out,” she says.

She also says that it’s entirely fair for musicians and artists to take a break from trying to market themselves and their music. “If people are finding ways to work online that feel good and resonate with them, that’s great!” she says. “However, I think it’s also okay to focus inwards, to deal with the tasks that have been on the backburner, rest and take in what has happened.”

Rayannah says that she’s trying not to set expectations for the future, and instead trying to focus on the things she can do now. “Whatever shape live music takes moving forward, I know that the work I’m currently doing will put me in a better place to make things work down the line.”

Jaywood predicts that the concept of social-distancing, isolation, and situations around the world are going to be the birth of a lot of new music from both established and non-established artists, “which means that when things finally get going again it might feel a little more ‘competitive’ but the best thing we can all do is just support one another and not get caught up in the hustle of it all,” he says.

“Me personally, I’m kind of stoked to not be performing right now! This has given me som time to focus on some other creative projects I’ve been really wanting to do and haven’t really had time for. I hope that creative folks use this time to get organized, maybe make some vague plans and ideas but ultimately just chill out. No one is upping anyone right now, we’re all in this situation together, so we’ve got to support one another and be cool, be respectful, and be human beings to one another.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *