AUSTIN, Texas – On March 6, nearly 400 Texas music acts were dealt a heavy blow when SXSW organizers and Austin city officials announced the 2020 event would no longer be happening. People across the state began responding immediately; several “Unofficial SXSW” shows were arranged last-minute, nonprofits launched numerous fundraising campaigns, and the community rallied behind the Texas music scene with revived and unwavering support.
Since that day, the situation has only gotten worse for the music industry. As the increasing threat of COVID-19 has shut down bars, restaurants, venues and every music festival across the globe, live musicians have been left with no other choice but to get creative if they’re going to continue paying their bills.
The Texas music industry has been doing everything it can to innovate and rethink the way it entertains.
With social distancing becoming the new normal for many, a growing number of musicians are now using the internet to perform.
Online social platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow musicians to go “live” and meet their fans virtually.
Instead of a tip jar, artists put out a tip “handle,” a link to the artist’s Venmo or Paypal account. Whether you’re the live-streaming musician or you’re the live-streaming fan watching from a couch far away, it’s not exactly the kind of concert we’re used to— but for musicians and viewers alike, the online shows are becoming a popular attraction.
While some musicians are choosing to perform online for the purpose of socializing or spreading positivity, there are other artists depending on their live-streamed performances as a means to fend for their livelihood.
These artists need to play live shows on social media that produce enough tips to make up for the money they aren’t getting by performing on stage.
On March 20, owners of the streaming service Bandcamp decided to waive their revenue shares for 24 hours and donate all of the site’s proceeds from the day to musicians.
The fundraising effort brought the biggest day of sales in the company’s history and raised over $4.3 million for musicians.
In Austin, following the cancellation of Willie Nelson’s 8 Annual Luck Reunion concert, organizers of the event partnered with three local charities to host a five hour live-streamed concert benefiting local musicians.
Approximately 60,000 people were tuned in at any given time during the lineup, and generous viewers watching the show donated over $170,000 by the end of the night.
Austin-based nonrofit Black Fret also recently put on an impressive live-streamed event called “Austin Love & Light Stream.”
The five-night concert series was broadcast from a closed-set sound-stage behind Texas’ oldest live music venue, Sholz Garten.
Thousands of people tuned in online for the six-hour concert each night.
Event organizers say the ideology was based on preserving the spirit and love of Austin and the Texas music scene while also putting something into the pockets of hurting, local musicians.
While it’s unfortunate that we can’t be together, packed into music venues and singing along with the band at the top of our lungs, it’s certainly a unique experience to scroll through your Facebook thread and see dozens of live concerts by artists you’ve been really wanting to see.
There’s no better time than now to start planning for shows you’d liked to tune into and support.
If you don’t find one you like right away, The Austin Chronicle has a helpful online calendar that contains a growing list of upcoming live-streamed shows to check out.