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Livestreams: a new art form for #StayAtHome

So how are you coping with #StayAtHome?  I thought so. That is what all my Facebook friends say. 

So far it has not been too bad here.   Local and state governments have been gradually tightening the restrictions, maybe too gradually. We will see.  As of this writing, Mexico has 1931 confirmed cases, 8,000 suspected cases, and 194 deaths. There are roadblocks where drivers temperatures are taken to identify people with symptoms before they are allowed into major cities like Chapala or Guadalajara.  I hope it helps.

On the ground #StayAtHome means no live music.  But the pandemic has actually opened up more live music than I have ever had before – more than I have time for.  I am averaging 2 livestreams a day and yesterday I saw three, the best one of which was a livestreamed record release party by double Latin Grammy winner Elsten Torres for his new album, The End of Love, out today.  The livestream with producer/keyboard player Doug Emery in the room was also a promotion for MusicCares, the great charity that helps musicians in financial trouble.  

I have been reviewing livestreams after evolving a format that tells viewers what they want to know if they want to follow up and watch subsequent livestreams by the same artist.  Livestreams are a different animal than live concerts, of course. In most livestreams, except for a few by major stars with bands and backup singers on remote spit screens and Las Vegas quality light and sound, the production is homegrown and the audience connection is as important as the music.

This begins with the setup. Does it give you a look into the artist’s life?  Are you seeing a bit of how the artist lives, like Guilia Millanta did when she recorded in her kitchen because of its great acoustics?  Or is the artist sitting in front of a blank wall that could be anywhere? How is the lighting? Is the artist in the dark or lit by an overhead ceiling light that makes them look flat like Charlie Brown? or do they take the time to grab lamps from around the house for a key and fill setup?  It makes a difference.

But a good livestream setup is the minimum. What is really important is communication.  Audience members talk with the artists and with each other in a Comments panel. The artist has the opportunity not only to engage in conversation but to introduce their lives to the audience.  Monica Pasqual shot her livestream this week from her childhood home, gave us a tour of her art, and introduced her mother. That was amazing!

This is the uniqueness of livestream – it is not just a performance, it is a relationship.  Yes, you want to hear and see the music, but you also want to give feedback to the artist and talk with your friends from around the country or the world in the Comments or Chat. You can’t do this at a concert.  Yes you can shout encouragement and clap along, and you can talk over the music to the people next to you, but livestreams build a community in a way that live music cannot. And it can do it in a way that shy artists – and many musicians are shy – can still feel as protected by the screen they are looking at as they do by the stage-audience separation in a concert. It may even help overcome their shyness.

Tonight at 8 pm CT  I will watch a livestream by John Lennon Songwriting Contest Grand Prize winner, Gina Chavez.  Having interviewed her on my radio show and seen her live, I know she is an outgoing dynamite personality.  I am looking forward to seeing how she handles this new art form. And I look forward to more jazz from Casa Domenech in Mexico and the long list of lisvestreams already on my calendar for next week.  #StayAtHome may be lonely or frustrating, but it should not be boring…there is too much music to watch.

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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