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Musicians take to livestream to keep playing, earning income

Concerts performed live over the internet are becoming a viable option for struggling bands
Posted at 5:49 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 21:11:35-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Musicians across West Michigan are taking to the internet to help supplement the income lost as a result of the Governor's ban on gatherings of 50 people or more.

As fears over the spread of COVID-19 continue to percolate through the state, more and more businesses are closing their doors. Music venues, both large and small, have been forced to cancel a slew of performances as a result of the Governor's order.

Musicians, like Sean Copenhaver and his brother Steffan, are worried about what the shutdowns could mean for their band. They have been performing with their band Brena for about 7 years now. The band is their main source of income.

“I'm rolling day-to-day. I think everybody is," Sean told FOX 17 Wednesday. "You just don’t know, man. It's crazy. And we don’t know when our gigs will come back."

The brothers say this time of year is usually their slow season, playing only 2 or 3 shows a week. But come summertime, they are used to playing 6, sometimes 7 nights a week.

“It's a tricky thing anyway, to own your own business, to do that. And then to add a creative or musical aspect to that, an artistic aspect, is a unique challenge as well," Steffan said.

The band has a practice/studio space in the basement of Sean's home. Because the instruments were there and they had nothing but time these past few days, they decided to try an alternative to live performance.

They starting livestreaming their musical performances over social media using a few cameras hooked up to a computer.

Brena has another online performance scheduled for Wednesday night around 8:00pm. You can watch at their Facebook page.

Grand Rapids-based musician Rob Bruce, who performs as Thomas Gun, relies on income from his job at a local music venue and from his own music.

Bruce decided to set up a livestream Tuesday evening and perform several songs from his basement.

“It was overwhelming actually, insanely overwhelming, to the point that one of my roommates is going to do it tonight," Bruce told FOX 17. “Currently it seems to be the only option."

He lives with 3 other musicians and says they all hope this time inside together will spur some creative endeavors.

We’re going to try and maybe even form a few bands here in lock down. Maybe try to produce some new content for people because we’re bored," he said.

Broadcasting from wherever they can, they all hope these livestream concerts can help carry the local music community through this unprecedented moment.

"Support your service industry friends, they’re all out of jobs, your musician friends, anyone that's struggling. A lot of people lost their jobs. If you see them doing whatever they gotta do... help em out, maybe throw them a bone if you can," Bruce said.

Independent music label Polyvinyl shared a few suggestions on how to help independent musicians in the wake of COVID-19.

  • Buying records and merch
  • Streaming and/or downloading albums
  • Sharing new releases with your friends/families
  • Engaging with artists on social media while practicing social distancing

Other Resources
Bandcamp: Company has waived their usual revenue share, all proceeds from music purchased goes directly to artists
MusiCares: Musicians can apply to receive financial support based on lost income
Musicians Foundation: Offers financial support to professional musicians in need