Since lockdown began, and social distancing became the new normal, Grapevine Magazine’s unique gig guide has had to adapt, it has become The Virtual Gig Guide. As curator of the guide I have perversely been ‘going’ to more gigs than ever! As with real gigs, virtual gigs vary in quality but at least you can have a few drinks without worrying about driving home.
I spend most evenings now zipping all over the region seeing what is out there, covering the miles across Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Suffolk at the click of a mouse.
It’s been great to see so many musicians performing. Some I know well, some are new to me. But all are in the same boat and all trying to keep themselves sane and keep us entertained.
What struck me was the variety in quality, platform and presentation between the performances. Smartphone and tablets all have the ability to record and transmit audio and video, but it is not broadcast quality and if I’m honest some of the virtual gigs I went to I didn’t stay long.
From the last few week’s experience, I have come up with a few observations to share with you:
Sound is by far the single most important thing if you are live streaming your music. Investing in a basic external mic that you can plug into a USB port can make such a difference. It also allows you to better place the mic away for the camera allowing more options for the visual set up.
Make sure your internet connection is up to it. There is not a lot you can do if it’s not, but there is nothing worse than watching a virtual gig that keeps breaking up. If you must, avoid WiFi and use a device hard wired to your router.
Some of the live streams can be a treat – personally, I like looking at people’s bookshelves and trying to read the titles on the spines. As a photographer the first thing I will notice is the light! Top tip is not to sit with your back to a window. With these long evenings there is plenty of light coming in and you will be a mere silhouette. Oh, and don’t have too much going on behind you, it’s a distraction.
Avoid the rush hour
Everyone wants to stream at 8pm on a Friday or Saturday night, choose a less popular day or time, lets face it, your audience is at home Monday to Sunday inclusive!
Tell the world what you are up to, use every tool at your disposal, not just one lonely post on your favourite social media platform. At this point I am contractually obliged to mention Grapevine’s Virtual Gig Guide, its free and as easy as dropping me an eMail (link in bio below).
Perform your gigs on a set day at a set time, get people into the habit of watching. More than ever we need structure, I have a few regular gigs I now go to, you would not believe how much that helps. Yes, it’s your own home, you are chilled and relaxed, but you need a set list. And if you ask for requests maybe promise to play them next week. Two reasons for this, one you’ll be better prepared and two you can avoid VGS. (see below!)
Virtual Gig Squint – that moment when you finish a song and need to read a comment that has just popped up, you lean forward, throw the device’s autofocus into a frenzy and squint to read said comment.
Not to be confused with VGS, VGC is the Virtual Gig Ceiling which seems to affect laptop users only. When we use our laptops, the screen is usually placed comfortably angled towards us the user, meaning that the viewer gets a lovey view of your face and the ceiling. Watch any news interview with a self-isolating interviewee on any subject!
This is a personal thing; we are all different. I like to watch my virtual gigs on a big screen – I cast them from my phone to the TV. If your device is in portrait mode, I get a tiny picture with empty space either side – landscape orientation produces a much more inclusive experience in my mind. You may well say that you are streaming for a mobile audience, fair enough, but it is far easier to turn a phone around than a 53” wide screen mounted to the wall!
The Virtual Producer
By far the best virtual gig idea I’ve seen is having a virtual producer, it means that you can get on with the show whilst they read out comments and keep you on track. It is as simple as having someone else on another phone on speaker close to your mic who is watching your feed, interacting with the audience and feeding you comments.