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Another night, another live stream

Another Friday night, another night at home in quarantine. Well not exactly, I put my kitty-kat paws homemade facemask on, sanitized my hands, and headed over to Casa Domenech where Ray Domenech was producing the third concert in the online jazz series The Hoping for the Best Tour.  I talked a little about Ray last week. Argentine by birth, he has operated restaurants in  California, Mexico, and Argentina among other places. He is also a musician and loves to produce concerts and play with and help other musicians. His restaurant, Casa Domenech – Casa D’s – is a hub for jazz and other kinds of music in Ajijic.

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 He is also an innovator and entrepreneur, so when the quarantine hit, he didn’t shut down; he shifted to take-out food and online concerts and started thinking about audiences far beyond the restaurant. Music Sin Fronteras is a sponsor of his concerts so naturally, I attend them all.

If you are one of the 30 people in the country who has not experienced an online concert, you will soon.  Everyone is doing it. In fact, so many people are doing it that I can’t keep up with the announcements I get every day for online concerts, CD release parties, online cumbia nights, singing from my living room nights, songs and Q&A nights and many other variations.  I actually tried to create a spreadsheet for myself of online concerts – band/day/time/platform/free or not. But I gave up because it took so much time to update the list that I didn’t have time to watch anything. 

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Good thing that there are now lists of online concerts and performances.  Billboard has assembled a list of high wattage home concerts by popular stars at https://bit.ly/3dziDFTVulture has also put out a list at https://bit.ly/2UUZaY3, mostly pop music and not as comprehensive or detailed as Billboard but still useful. Even CNET has gotten in the game, publishing a list of online concerts that range from Miley Cyrus to the Vienna State Opera.  One of the most interesting listings is Vimeo Livestream, which lists everything from a Bollywood extravaganza to the Michigan State University Music School.

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But for the time being, I will continue to wear my facemask and set up the video equipment and shoot set stills and videos at Casa Domenech one or two nights a week and see who else is online the other nights.  At some point, I will come back with a comprehensive look at the exploding online concert phenomenon which I think is here to stay. It makes a lot of sense to a lot of people to pay $3 and stay home with their smokes and drinks and friends to watch a live stream concert instead of paying $30 (or $300), drive, park, stand in line to get in, get a beer, get food, and get int a bathroom.

That having been said, I think the club world will have to do some adapting to survive.  In addition to the announcements for online concerts I get every day, I also get pleas to donate to clubs I attended so they can stay afloat until the quarantine is over. I do, but with a personal proviso: there will be a shakeout. Some venues are not going to make it and the others are going to have to adapt. I think that Ray may have a good idea on that front.  He is planning on doing both live and online music simultaneously, with a paywall. He thinks that he can draw people in with the band, from his customer base that is part of the Casa D community and stream the concert simultaneously to a new audience. He may even make a little on take-out food to people who want to enjoy his cuisine and music at home. 

I could see the Hotel Café in Hollywood or the Rockwood in New York or Bimbos 365 in San Francisco adding live stream with a paywall and keeping attendance with a meet and greet with the bands at live shows, plus swag and selfies.  What the larger venues will do we shall see, but I think there will always be an audience for Lady Gaga extravaganzas or Pink swinging from the big top while singing. I worry about the mid-sized clubs like Hollywood’s Fonda or Austin’s Paramount and the great mid-list bands like Hirie that play them.  If these bands shift to live stream when they see they can net as much money live streaming because they eliminate the expense of the tour and the revenue cuts with the ticket vendors and the venues, we may see more closures like Slims in San Francisco.

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Bands I have been talking to say they will never go completely live stream because they can’t live without audiences.  Like actors, they need feedback, applause, and the excitement that only a live audience can create. So for many bands, live stream will be another tool in the toolbox; they will perform at live concerts when they are profitable and logistically convenient, and live stream as often as possible. I hope so.  I and the rest of the music audience will be able to have the best of both worlds – live music at places like Casa D’s for me, occasional big shows in the amphitheaters in Guadalajara, and my favorite local bands on my computer, phone, and flatscreen. And maybe the artists will actually make a little more money

Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist and radio broadcaster based in Los Angeles, California, with a global following. His two weekly radio programs, MusicFridayLive! and MusicaFusionLA are heard nationwide and in the UK. He focuses on two music specialties: emerging bands in all genres, and the growing LA-based ALM genre (American Latino Music) that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America like cumbia, banda, jarocho and mariachi. He also likes to watch his friend drag race.

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