Parsing the Data, Asking the Questions

For my performing artist friends, peers and colleagues - our Virginia Commission for the Arts conference kicked off with an artist peer group session, and it got me thinking about what we've learned and lost in this pandemic. I made a list, and I'd welcome feedback, comments, and especially ideas about how you're planning your performing schedule and/or to take in performances in 2021 and beyond. The plusses first because I'm always a glass-half-full-with-room-to-top-it-off kind of guy... 

POSITIVES 

  • The world learned to consume live streaming on a variety of platforms, and geography became a lot less relevant! 
  • Folks also got adept at online payment/donations for shows and via Patreon, etc. And many of my supporters have been very generous - they helped me survive this year, and I'm hugely grateful! 
  • Availability of new technologies, gear and tools 
  • As a solo artist, my touring overhead was obviously much lower without driving long distances and being away from home for my normal average of 6-8 weeks 
  • The combination of livestream performer and indie broadcaster made rich new viewer experiences possible 
  • Those experiences allow a rare intimacy between viewer and performer. 

DOWNSIDES: 

  • The loss of people; family, friends, peers, fans. And in most cases, without the opportunity to meaningfully process those losses with others. It is surreal. 
  • I dearly miss the organic energy cycle of artist and audience in the same room 
  • It's hard to tell what is right frequency of livestreams for specific audience; competition for attention is national and even global - how much is too much? 
  • When to schedule events; what day/time is best for particular audience? 
  • It's also hard to know what is the right balance of free livestreams with donations/tip jar versus ticketed events 
  • Livestreaming is a much bigger challenge for ensembles who are not sharing a “pod“ 

And of course, the million dollar question; when do we “go back” to live performance as a core component of our work?

So many venues have closed, and in an industry that already suffered from an imbalance between supply (artists) and audience demand, there will be intense competition for most any available performance opportunities, which of course carries economic consequences too. And for me, who enjoys a fairly "mature" audience, when will my people be ready to sit in person in intimate venues again? 

I don't have all the answers, but I always have hope. The vaccine is rolling out slowly, but it is happening. Warmer weather is coming. How much have we the people changed in what performance art means to us, and what will we do to partake?

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