Virtual Concerts: Experiences Money Can’t Buy

By Charese Fruge’,

Yes, there’s no other feeling in the world like being in the middle of a concert crowd watching your favorite artist play the hits while everyone around you is screaming at the top of their lungs and dancing around. Unless of course you’re in the nosebleed section in a giant stadium and can barely see the artist on the Jumbotron. But still, I get it. It’s an experience and we’d all suffer from FOMO if Taylor Swift or U2 came to town, depending on your age, and you couldn’t go to the concert. Well, we all know that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the concert business as we know it, even halted it for the time being, and it will be a long time before we can all gather in a giant stadium or venue together again to celebrate our favorites.

I’ve got to be honest though, for the few artists who picked up on the virtual concert concept early, it was a pretty good move. It’s a completely different vibe and an experience that money can’t buy. There are no crowds, no traffic, no metal detecters and no lines for the bathroom or bar. There is no bad seat in the house. It’s extremely intimate, your requests matter and the artist can see exactly who’s watching and communicate in realtime via chat. As a fan you also get the feeling that you are sitting in their living room or music room or back yard with them. You watch them struggle to find the perfect technical set up for you and discover just how human they actually are. For the artist It’s also a great way to connect regularly and engage individually with the fans and help keep their spirits alive during this time of lockdown.

 I’ve been watching Melissa Etheridge and her daily Facebook Live performances and I am blown away by her. I have always been a big fan of hers because she’s an incredible musician, has an amazing voice and bleeds every time she writes a song. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her because she doesn’t tour as much and well, because it’s been a while since we’ve heard from her. But to my surprise when this pandemic hit, she committed to a live performance on her Facebook page everyday from her home at 3p PST. She sings 4 songs which is perfect, tells amazing stories and switches up the theme every day. Today was Janis Joplin Day and she was on FIRE. She does it for her sanity and more importantly for the sanity of her fans. It was day 27 and it never gets old.

Singer song writer Matt Nathanson also caught on early while being stuck at home in San Francisco working on a new album. He’s doing virtual live performances at least once a week (usually Wednesdays at 5p PST) and working out his kinks, both technically and musically. It makes him real and funny and sarcastic which is part of his charm. He’s able to interact in realtime with his fans, answer questions, give shout outs, and he’s able to test out new material on his fans while insuring a balance of hits and covers so his audience stays satisfied. He realized quickly that this was a great platform to make a real difference during the Covid tragedy and  every time he performs now, he promotes a different charity for fans to contribute to. 

Writer/Producer and Better Than Ezra front man Kevin Griffin is no stranger to performing and fundraising. He’s also no stranger to tragedy being from New Orleans where in 2005 Hurricane Katrina, a catastrophic storm, pummeled the city and forced him to uproot his family and find a new normal. He was one of the first artists to use a virtual platform to raise money for victims suffering from the current Covid pandemic. A cause close to his heart for obvious reasons, he raised over $40,000 in about an hour for MusiCares with a virtual acoustic performance on Thursday, March 19. The money will help thousands of music creators and professionals out of work. He’s done two more since then (they’ve now become a Friday gig) for different charities raising over $90,000 so far. That’s pretty good for a little over three hours of fundraising. His efforts continue this Friday, April 17, with another performance from his living room in Nashville and the promise of surprise guests and performances. Check it out at 8p CST on @RaisingCanes Facebook page. They’ll be matching up to $10,000 in donations.

The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting performers on all levels. I’ve also been tuning in to one of my favorite San Diego lounge acts, Don Lemaster and his fiancé Corey Hable and their virtual Happy Hours. Since they are out of work right now, they are surviving by playing requests, switching up themes, dressing up in costume and playing the hits. The good cheesy lounge hits. The kind you hear at a circle bar in a casino in Las Vegas at 3 in the morning, or the piano bar at Pat O’s in New Orleans. They promote their Venmo and PayPal accounts for tips and believe me, the comedic relief is worth every penny. If you want to check these guys out, follow Don Lemaster on Facebook.

Right now, the priority is to get us through the economic hardship the Coronavirus is inflicting on our country. Imagine what we could accomplish if more artists and entertainment professionals used their virtual gifts to raise money for charity. People are starting to catch on, and we are slowly becoming the kind of humans who are putting others first for the first time in a long time. Perhaps the conspiracy theories about the universe trying to prove a point to us on so many levels are right. Hopefully we will learn these lessons and the world will be a kinder place moving forward. And when things get back to normal and the economy begins to heal, these ideas and methods created in these desperate times will have prepared us to offer MORE intimate experiences for fans that money can’t buy, while at the same time, provide future opportunities to help the entertainment industry bounce back financially.