This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment
By John Swartz
About two weeks ago, something changed on Facebook and the notifications I was getting from friends and groups I use to see changed to a bunch of friends and groups I wasn’t seeing.
On one hand I was now finding out what was happening with a different portion of my vast friends and groups empire I had forgotten about. On the other, I now have to do a search for the stuff I was in the habit of checking out regularly.
One of those things gone AWOL are a portion of arts pages and artist friends I was keeping up with. This happened two weeks after the emergency declarations and being forced to keep the dust bunnies company, so I managed to catch Steven Henry doing a concert from his church. Bleeker did one from their living room, and Michael Martyn did one from the curb in front of his house (this was on a night when spring was actually happening and he didn’t freeze his finger).
There is still a portion of my liked and favourited pages that never show up in the notifications list. I did happen to notice several musicians, Lyric Dubee, Cheryl Hill (Charlotte and the Dirty Cowboys), and others were also doing live steamed concerts – except they were hitting my notifications list after their events.
So here’s my plan. Because Facebook seems to do what it wants, if you or your band are going to do a live concert on Facebook, or any platform (Instagram, Youtube, etc.) shoot me a note with the link to your page to email@example.com and I’ll list them a resurrected Shorts section which fell off the computer screen because, well, nothing was happening. If it’s going to be something with some regularity, a schedule, please include that info. I have to have your information by Wednesday morning at about the same time the neighbour’s rooster decides to risk his life and wake me up.
How Do They Do It?
If you are a musician and thought about doing a concert online, or maybe you are an author and want to read from your book, or a painter who wants to let people watch you paint something while you talk about it, the conundrum is – how do you do it. It seems technical, but really it’s not. I spoke with Steven, Michael and Mike (from Bleeker) about their experience so far. Of course, I come from a television background and have a good understanding of how these things work, but I was surprised to learn how low-tech hi-tech has become.
“Just my telephone,” said Steven about what he is using to get the video out of his studio, a converted church in Warminster. “I’ve got a couple monitors right in front of the telephone with an overhead vocal mic (for his voice). I found with the compression built into their microphone that the guitar sometimes would drown out my voice.”
And with Facebook’s telephone app, there’s not much else to do except learn which icons to touch to get the show started. Bleeker cuts out some of the intermediate steps and has been playing acoustically straight into the phone.
“Nothing hi-tech. That’s all everybody’s doing in regards to the live aspect of it. It’s so convenient,” said Bleeker’s bassist Mike Vandyk.
Michael, and Dave Shaw of Makers Market, have teamed up to do an online concert series with Micheal in front of the camera and Dave behind the camera. Michael has a background in theater so he’s got the visual presentation part down, to the limits of gear he has available, and Dave has the sound system in place at his store which was used for all the artists he had performing last summer. So they were camera ready, so to speak.
“We’re all getting used to seeing living room concerts or whatever, from the outset I wanted to step this up in terms of production value,” said Micheal. “Last week was just a cell phone camera and a cell phone microphone and that was the feed.”
Tonight at 8 p.m. anyone surfing into the weekly concert will notice a difference, which we’ll discuss more, further down this page.
All three were pleasantly surprised by how many viewers they had despite Facebook’s erratic notification system. They just posted they were doing a concert and people clicked into it.
“That’s basically how everybody’s getting it. I’ve got a lot of people on my Facebook list as friends. The first time I sent out, “This Saturday I’m going to play. It’s just drop in if you want.” There was over 2,000 people watched it,” said Steven.
“It’s pretty crazy that you can get to that many people when you‘re just a little guy from Orillia. I put it up and they share it with their friends, so there’s lots of people watching on other shares that aren’t even on my page.”
“I was really surprised. The show I did last Thursday got over 2500 views,” said Michael. Bleeker was also happy with the audience they had. Still, the marketing and promotion of these online events is not easy with everything shut down.
“For a guy like me who has presented a lot of shows over the years, it’s actually part of the fun part. I’m working across three different platforms, Facecbook, Twitter and Instagram, to promote it. I’m promoting myself through my own social media pages as well,” said MichaeL.
He is no stranger to putting shows in front of audiences, either his own or for others. He said he’ll usually start two weeks ahead for a pub show, a month for something bigger. For his online performance last week, he promoted only two days ahead.
“That tells me something about the way this medium works and I think that’s really interesting because it’s a new ground and because social media is so immediate, you can be on Facebook and go, “oh, this is happening now; I don’t have to leave my house,” and do it that way,” Michael said.
Bleeker has been doing two live streams a week.
“It’s not like a full-fledged concert. We’re just playing tunes, take requests, get some questions, make jokes, whatever, kind of thing.”
With Facebook messenger the performers can see who is watching and read text messages. Often they acknowledge their viewers whose names they recognize. They also can see the requests.
”I’ve had lots of requests. I’ve learned probably ten songs since I started doing it.” said Steven. “It forces me to learn new songs. I’ve never in my life played a Gordon Lightfoot song and I had many requests for it, so I did Early Morning Rain a week or two ago. Of course I had to change the key because I can’t sing as well as Gordon.”
All three say they’ll be doing their live streams for the duration.
“Unless I drop dead in the next week or so, which I don’t think is going to happen,” said Steven.
They might be having to do so longer. It sounds like our political leadership is setting the stage for restrictions on public gatherings well past the summer, maybe even into this time next year.
“Everybody’s scrambling. Nobody knows what to do. Nobody has a clear shot answer. There’s nothing can replicate the concert experience, going to a place, feeling that energy from every other person in the room, the sheer volume,” said Mike.
Right now they are not doing these shows to replace income lost from cancelled gigs.
“People said, you should put up a Paypal thing. That’s not really why I’m doing it. I’m just doing it so there’s something for people to do on Saturday night. This keeps my hand in playing,” said Steven. There is some doubt these things can be turned into income replacements. Mike brings up some online concerts he’s seen by the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead which were put out as pay-per-view events.
“You have to a have a production level. How much are people going to pay if it’s just an iPhone?” said Mike. “How many people are going to pay when it’s essentially the same experience as watching a Youtube concert that happened 6 months ago? How can you do to make the experience more intimate and more like the show?”
From this keyboard, the quality of videos on Youtube are better, even the live streamed stuff. One wonders why musicians aren’t using Youtube instead of Facebook, or as well as.
“I think with Youtube you get into an issue with licensing,” said Mike. As soon as he mentioned it, the memory of many fights between content creators on Youtube and rights holders came to mind, some legitimate, most dubious. Still it’s a good explanation why they aren’t using Youtube, who wants to be shut down over trivial matters like an overactive algorithm flagging your show?
“The technology is moving quicker than the law,” said Mike. On the other hand, Facebook is catching some things too.
“Before it (the show) had even gone on, we had some John Prine music streaming and Facebook picked up on that immediately and said we can’t air this,” said Michael. Yet when he sings a cover song it doesn’t present a problem.
“If it’s a recorded version of a song Facebook seems to pick up on it, but if I sang it that’s different.”
Orillia Artists Care
Continuing this look behind the curtain of online streaming, brings us past the logistics of doing them to an idea Michael had, which went in motion last week. He came up with what is now called the Essential Concert Series. It’s an expansion of what he experienced from his now infamous street side concert for his neighbours in week one of our vacation at home.
“I’d already had the idea to do the fundraiser for the hospital foundation and then I went on the street. Valerie Powell actually invited me out to do that and it was really nice; there’s people out on the front lawns, nobody left their property,, we were all keeping all the distance,” he said.
“It sort of cemented in my mind the importance of music as a way to get people together when they can’t actually be together.”
“The next step was I contacted the hospital foundation. They said great, we have a special fund set up.”
“That’s to raise money for gowns and gloves and masks and all those things that we keep hearing are in short supply and tough to get. That’s what the money from this fundraising concert series is going toward.”
Where to do the concerts was the next thing to tackle.
“I think how it started is Mike commented on one of my music videos and I messaged him back and said when you are going to do your live concert.,” said Dave Shaw.”Then he messaged me and said, “hey, why don’t we do it at the store?””
“We started talking about how can we make this into something that does get to the community.”
As stated, Makers Market as a venue for concerts is not new.
“Maker’s Market is where a lot of local artists, visual artists and craftspeople show their work and sell their work and we really wanted to remind people that artists are part of the community, that we care, that we are caught up in all this too and we want to make a contribution,” said Michael.
Each Thursday there will be a different artist. Tonight at 8 p.m. Cassie Dasilva is performing. Lined up for the weeks ahead are Newmarket musician Pat James, Angie Nussey, VK and others.
“We’ve got more artists than we know what to do with, as usual,” Michael said. They plan to continue the series to at least June 11. Last week’s concert is considered a success.
“(We) raised over $600 just from this little one-off, so I was really surprised by the response we got.”
The Facebook page you view the concert on has a donation button which will take you to the OSMH Foundation donation page.
“What’s really important for us is the artists don’t touch the money. All the money goes to the hospital foundation,” Michael said. Dave and Beth Shaw have sweetened the act of donating.
“Especially because in this time there’s not a lot of people with extra money to be had, so Beth and I decided we would donate a furniture package and we’re also offering every Thursday during the live show we’re giving away two Charcuterie boards to nominated essential workers.”
The furniture package includes a coffee and end tables, a Charcuterie board and other items from the store to make up a $2,000 value. If you are wondering what the heck a Charcuterie board is, its a serving board with a handle you often see piled with coldcuts and cheeses at swanky affairs.
As mentioned, Michael and Dave have put their tech heads together to make a watchable and listenable live stream, but they weren’t satisfied.
“We wanted to present something that was good and worthy of people tuning in to see,” said Dave. There are going multi camera.
“The funny apart about that was in talking with Anitta (Hamming), when I started telling her what we were looking for, she said, “I have that.” Then she said,”but my issue is audio.” And I said, funny enough, “I have that.”” So they have the use of her computer program called ManyCam to handle video feeds by wifi, which will do all the processing into a lightweight signal for the internet.
“It allows me to have up to 10 cameras, which is a little overkill,” Anitta said. She is the person behind Creative Nomad Studios which will one day open in the former Biway store downtown.
“Creative Nomad Studios will be using the same system for lots of different things,” she said. She likes to teach art and went looking for a way to solve her problem of how to show what she’s is working on and be on the screen when she needed to be without spending tons of money for cameras, switchers, signal converters and everything else one would normally find in a television studio.
“I can only work with the equipment I have access to. I would love to get hi-def cameras to do this. If somebody comes forward with three or four hi-def cameras I can use, I’ll take it. The productions values are going to ramp right up.” said Michael.
Today tiny little cameras and cell phones have as much power as all the computers on the Apollo capsules and moon landers and Anitta discovered the application to make them work together.
“You have to have a fairly stable wifi connection. As long as you have that, you’re good,” she said.
“At the end of the day, what we want is a good product,” said Dave, and he, Michael and Anitta believe they will deliver that – and more.
“This is all about community and Creative Nomad Studios is all about community.” Said Anita.
“We’re heavily involved in the community and we try and do everything we can to support the community and truthfully it give Mike and I something to do,” said Dave.
“It’s not just about raising money, it’s not just about the artists, it’s about community,” said Michael.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia, Supplied) Main: My Son the Hurricane at Mariposa 2019.