The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the denizens of the Azalea City into a stationary world of self-isolation. This once-in-a-lifetime event has also forced music venues across the city to stay silent until the crisis is over.
However, local musicians are determined to keep the music going. Over the past few weeks, the web has become a popular outlet for musicians to bring their sounds to the masses. Each day, livestreams of local sounds flow freely across social media. A majority of these tech-savvy artists are generating money through “virtual tip jars” that utilize cash apps such as Venmo.
While many musicians have been taking a DIY approach with their livestreams, three local entities have made it their mission to assist these artists in maximizing both their viewership and virtual tip jar cash flow.
Quarantunes has been providing regular streams from local bands. Producer Ryan VanDyke says the current times were instrumental in bringing Quarantunes to life. No stranger to streaming live music or local sounds, VanDyke says he sympathized with the financial and artistic conditions local musicians were facing as a result of COVID-19.
In his effort to “keep music alive and well,” VanDyke recruited his close friend Ryan Gorman to act as a fellow producer. From there, VanDyke brought WABD personality Tres “Twiggins” Wiggins to act as host in this musical mix. Finally, VanDyke added Dylan Lovvorn to assist in running sound for Quarantunes.
After the success of its first livestream featuring The Red Clay Strays and Laurie Anne Armour, VanDyke and his crew knew Quarantunes was a beneficial musical venture. Since then, their mission has evolved into one that keeps both the musicians and the public in mind.
“It’s providing a platform for musicians to continue to spread the love through music,” VanDyke said. “It’s also another way for people to watch the musicians perform live. It’s all a way to keep music [alive].”
As far as complications are concerned, VanDyke says the only obstacle they have faced is changing venues. When the streams first started, they were broadcasted from Lure Nightclub. Now, they are using The Ice Box cocktail bar.
Equipment is also a challenge for Quarantunes. Currently, VanDyke and the Quarantunes crew are trying to generate funds to buy new equipment that will improve the stream visually and sonically. So far, the bands get 100 percent of the proceeds generated from the stream.
However, VanDyke says the Quarantunes crew is currently looking for investors to help them in their endeavor. After the stay-at-home order is over and venues begin to open again, VanDyke hopes Quarantunes will continue to bring Azalea City music to the masses.
“We’re talking about taking this thing and continuing to do it and putting a real business structure behind it, whether we go to different venues and stream their shows or continue working with The Ice Box,” VanDyke explained.
Southern Music Lounge is another Facebook group that has emerged as a source for local music. This group specializes in hosting livestreams from local musicians broadcasting from self-isolation environments.
Recently, Southern Music Lounge held “CoronaFest 2020,” which brought performances from numerous local musicians to the livestream world. This virtual music venue is the project of two local musicians.
Singer-songwriter Ella Salter first conceived Southern Music Lounge as a platform for local musicians to expand their livestream audiences beyond their respective social media followings.
Salter joined forces with Greg “Red” Padilla (Red & the Revelers) to establish the Southern Music Lounge group on Facebook. Together, they founded the Southern Music Lounge as an epicenter for local musicians to stream their music. Now these musicians would have a chance to build their online following through the users venturing onto the Southern Music Lounge Facebook page, in addition to the followers they are able to draw to their own pages.
“Everybody is doing live shows from their home Facebook pages, which is great,” Salter said. “Whenever you do that, the only people who are going to be seeing your live shows are the people who are already following you.”
Salter hopes the Southern Music Lounge will keep the music flowing while maximizing exposure for all participating artists. CoronaFest 2020 served as an introduction to the Southern Music Lounge for both the artists and the public. Salter says the widespread interest in the event was a bittersweet experience. With all the work and monitoring Coronafest required, Salter found herself having to disappoint a number of musical acts.
“The hardest thing for me was turning people away and say, ‘Hey, let’s talk about getting you a show after the fact,’” Salter explained. “Other than that, it hasn’t been a difficult thing to manage.”
After the area emerges from self-isolation, Salter would like to see Southern Music Lounge continue its livestream concerts. She hopes local venues will act as a host for these performances. Other than that, Salter hopes to generate enough traffic and followers to attract sponsorship for guarantees for bands, as opposed to the virtual tip jar method. She also hopes to incorporate a YouTube channel and a podcast into the Southern Music Lounge offerings.
“We’re working on it,” Salter said. “I’m hoping that it will be sustained for a long time.”
Foxxy Records is also working hard to bring live music to those exercising self-isolation. Foxxy Records’ Sergio Rangel is collaborating with Chris Menefee (Blue Shark Studios) and Robert Hammon (Cue Productions) to bring regular livestreams featuring local artists. The trio has also established a weekly livestream called “Headphones On,” which features streamed performances from a private residence in Midtown. Rangel says the trio began establishing a plan to livestream musical performances prior to the COVID-19 crisis.
“It was already being planned a few months before all this happened,” Rangel explained. “The reason why it came together so fast is that we had already been working on it. It’s been interesting how it all unfolded. It was just unfortunate that it took this.”
“It’s another platform for accessibility,” Menefee added. “It gives artists another opportunity to showcase their talent. It also builds the artists’ audiences, too. Maybe the people watching aren’t local. It broadens the audience.”
Both Rangel and Menefee say each livestream presents new challenges that serve as a learning experience for future performances. Menefee also says another complicated aspect of streaming live music is the engineering aspect. He says mixing for a livestream is more challenging than doing live sound. Because of the team’s attention to improvements to future broadcasts, Rangel says regular viewers of Foxxy Records’ livestreams will have better sonic and visual experiences with each new performance.
“We’re taking notes and saying, ‘This is what we could’ve done better’ and applying it to each new livestream,” Menefee said.
The future of Foxxy Records’ livestreams is similar to Quarantunes and Southern Music Lounge. They hope to generate the funds to improve their equipment. Rangel also says he hopes venues will see streaming live music as “a good avenue to take,” financially. He also sees Foxxy Records’ future livestreams as a way for audiences to preview a band’s music in the live setting before committing to paying for a ticket or a cover charge.
A worldwide pandemic has not sullied the Azalea City’s love for local music. The livestreams provided by Quarantunes, Southern Music Lounge and Foxxy Records have earned thousands of views. For now, virtual venues and artists’ livestreams will be the city’s only way to experience music from local musicians. However, as long as there are artists willing to perform and music lovers willing to bring music to the masses, Mobile will not be silenced by COVID-19.
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