Well, this shit fucking sucks, right? The news will tell you all about the more horrific waves Covid-19 is spreading through our society at present, but closer to home, it’s a horrorshow for independent music, always on the brink thanks to the pennies paid out by streaming services. With venues shutting and gatherings of people of any size off the table, it’s hitting musicians dependent on live shows hard financially, and depriving fans of one of the main joys of their lives.
It’s a situation that’s changing every day, but now people are starting to find ways to mitigate, in some small ways, the live music side of this disaster. One of the strongest examples to emerge so far comes from Norway, where the ‘virtual festival’ Brakkesyke has popped up. Started off by three people, but now with an expanding team as more people chip in, they’ve been putting on livestreamed home shows with musicians since March 12, with enabled options for people to donate to the musicians via Norwegian money transferring app Vipps, Paypal or links to merch, letting musicians take in some small compensation for the live money they’ve lost. We think it’s an important glimmer of light in the darkness, so we spoke to them to learn all about it and get inspired about coping with corona crunch.
So what are your own backgrounds, and how did you come up with the idea for Brakkesyke?
Eivind Eide Skaufjord: After only a few days, we’ve become a larger and more varied bunch of people with different backgrounds, but with different parts of the music industry as a common denominator. The first three of us are: musician and journalist (Filip Roshauw), teacher and booker (Geir Ramstad Sletvold), record label guy (Eivind). Filip birthed the idea, brought it to Geir, who included Eivind who was thinking along the same lines.
Can you explain the concept in detail? It’s basically livestreamed concerts where people have the opportunity to donate to the artist playing?
Eivind: It’s fairly easy. People are quarantined and advised to stay at home, and away from other people. So the live streams are based on whatever equipment the artist has at hand. We try to help the artists remotely with the technical side of things, but we’ve had everything from crisp HD AV to dark, gnarly basement videos. All part of the charm. We then crosspost it through the artist’s pages and our own. We see more advanced and professional concepts popping up around us all the time now. But for us, it’s important to keep it simple, and to keep people in their homes, virus-free. And yes, donations are encouraged.
Learning by doing
How has the response been so far? Both from audiences and musicians?
Eivind: The response has been more than incredible. In less than a week we’re at 40k followers and the shows we stream are being watched by tens of thousands. I think many artists are learning a ton these days about doing online live shows, that will probably continue after this crisis. It seems that they enjoy it as much as the audience. And although this can never fully compensate for cancelled tours, there is some money coming in as well.
What are the practicalities of setting up the concerts? What goes into setting up the concert, the broadcast etc?
Eivind: This is maybe the most difficult or diverging element. As people are told to stay inside, and many are quarantined, we are left with the equipment each and every artist has at hand. So, as I said earlier, we’ve had super-professional setups with great sound and video quality, and also rougher stuff streamed directly from the webcam and built-in microphone of a laptop. What we try to do in advance of these streams is to find out what equipment, bandwith and technical proficiency (streaming-wise) the artist has. We run a few tests, and then we (attempt) to set up Facebook crossposting from the artist’s page to our page. Usually something goes wrong, but we’re constantly learning.
What have been the most challenging aspects of putting this together at such speed and with such a fast-changing situation?
Eivind: Aside from the technical challenges (which are constant), it’s challenging to keep up with the insane growth of this, and all inquiries and requests. That said, that’s also what’s so fun and rewarding about this. We’re all doing it pro bono. Donations go directly to the artists.
Are there any other features you would like to add to the concept, if you end up having to run it for a bit longer?
Eivind: We are very much running this thing in the here and now, and are mostly just trying to keep our heads above water. Other concepts for live streaming with better options for payment, subscriptions, high quality, etc. are popping up every minute, but we are sticking to our ethos, that we should be easily available for both audience and artist. So no new features planned at the moment.
Finally, do you have any advice, both to musicians and people in the music industry looking to support one another at this time, and to fans looking to support their favourite artists?
Eivind: I think this really is the time to find new ways to connect audience and artist. People get creative when strange circumstances arise. Fans should (if they can afford it) support the music through buying merch and records, through streaming and online shows. I guess there is no straight answer for what musicians should do. Hustle. Survive. Do online shows. Build your audience.
Brakkesyke’s Facebook page, where you’ll find all their concerts as well as their upcoming schedule, is here.
Are you an artist or agency who’s planning broadcasted live shows these days? We’re trying to collect as many as possible so don’t hesitate to write a mail to: norman[at]nbhap.com