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“Gigs do not exist” — Irish musicians take festivals online

Stephen Ryan Mar 26, 2020
Musician Emma Langford performed in the first Live at Home festival. Screenshot via Facebook

“Gigs do not exist” — Irish musicians take festivals online

Stephen Ryan Mar 26, 2020
Musician Emma Langford performed in the first Live at Home festival. Screenshot via Facebook

From Coachella to Glastonbury, scores of festivals have been postponed or canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What do you do if you’re a musician who makes a living from touring? 

Artists in Ireland are finding creative ways to make ends meet by taking festivals online. For more than four hours last week, an online festival, Live at Home, featured performances by eight musicians, each streaming using Facebook Live. 

Singer-songwriter Emma Langford is optimistic that many musicians are ready to face the challenge of working from home. 

“For a lot of us, most of our income and most of our audience building happens when we’re touring live,” she said. “In a lot of ways, it’s nothing we’re not used to dealing with. My work life is really sporadic and unpredictable. I would spend a lot of time at home, doing project management and then I’d be out on the road, maybe three days of the week, doing shows live and doing weddings and various events.”

Still, the whole experience was a little unnerving.

“It’s a really weird thing to kind of come to terms with that not only can I not play gigs, but gigs do not exist,” Langford said. “So I’m figuring out ways to adapt to that and make gigs happen in my own way and entertain people and connect with my audience.”

The broadcast was free, but people watching could donate via a GoFundMe page. Tossing a few coins in a virtual hat for the musicians amounted to $1,600 dollars to be split between the performers. 

Organizer Michael Grace spent the days before the festival making sure all the artists had proper lighting and a good camera angle. He was delighted with how people at home got involved. 

“So many people were commenting, and it really was like a small festival or a small gig where people were making jokes, trying to tell people to ‘Shhh, down the back,’ and running from one Facebook page to another as you would one tent to the next at a small festival to see the next act,” Grace said.

The gigs reached a live audience of around 200 people with a further 4,000 watching on-demand streams afterwards. For some performers, that’s a considerably larger audience than at a cozy venue for 60 or 70 people. 

That’s not the only change. It’s “really nerve-wracking” for Langford to sing her heart out to a camera in her living room when she’s “not getting the instant response of applause after a song,” she said.

Langford adds that many of the performers reported it “feeling like almost our first ever gig all over again because it’s such a different experience.” 

(Screenshot via Facebook)

Finishing the night by reading a bedtime story from Dr. Seuss, Langford says she’s interested in another online gig. 

“I really enjoyed it, being able to just sit in the comfort of my own home,” she said.

With one gig down, a second Live at Home festival is scheduled this Thursday. It’s still free, though any donations received will go to a charity providing friendship and support to the elderly.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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