With the Covid-19 disease still ravaging many parts of the world, it has become more difficult than ever for entertainers to make a living. Performing on stage or anywhere else in front of any kind of audience obviously requires bringing people together, and that is exactly what must be avoided for the time being to slow the spread of the deadly virus.
The quandary for entertainers then becomes: how to make a living when there are no live audiences for whom to perform. As we have seen, however, entertainers have been getting creative with the settings where they perform their art. Of course, that creativity is born out of the necessities of the times, but from the individuals we have interviewed for this post, we have learned these changes could prove fortuitous for entertainers in the end.
Let’s learn more about how entertainers are dealing with Covid-19.
Enjoying More Time to Create
Mr. Stacey A. Giulianti, Esq. told us: “Our child, 14-year-old music producer, and multi-instrumentalist, Daniel – who goes by ‘Kill the Kitty’ – hasn’t played a local show since last year. However, with all this free time, he’s been able to write many more songs than usual, as well as experiment with various instruments and sound design.”
It is understandable that artists would want to utilize their forced time off to work on and improve their craft. In other cases, entertainers are releasing new music during their days of Covid-19 quarantine. We spoke with Sherri Thompson about the artist Cecily. Thompson said this: “Cecily is known for her agile soprano and honest lyrics. Her current album Awakening Pt. 1 was named “Best New Soul on Bandcamp” by the Bandcamp editorial team, who praised her ability to blend top-notch songwriting with thoughtful self-reflection.”
Professional musician and singer-songwriter Alissa Musto has also made good use of her free time during the public shutdown caused by Covid-19. “I realized my best way to spend this time was to work on projects and material that I never get to work on when I’m on the road. I’ll never have this sort of time to create without distractions or pressure to get back to performing. I’ve been concentrating on finishing material for a new album, updating my social media and promotional material, self-taping auditions from home, collaborating virtually with other artists, and pursuing other creative outlets. There is always room for practice and improvement. While I’m not profiting from these things, I think they will make me more competitive in my field when live performances resume. While the entertainment industry has been hit particularly hard and will take longer to recover than other industries, artists (I think) are in a fortunate position; we have the ability to create something out of nothing and to channel energy and emotions into art.”
Meanwhile, Michael the Metropolitan Cowboy Coleman, artistic director of See Your Shadow Songwriting, expressed his own struggles during the shutdown of the entertainment industry: “The Covid-19 restrictions have had a significant impact on See Your Shadow as we had to suspend production on some of our projects and delay the launch of our television platform. However, the downtime has allowed us to focus on other elements of our brand. Plus, with everybody at home, we have been able to connect with folks and expand our network, so the restrictions have been both a blessing and a curse.”
Obviously, when we speak about entertainers struggling to work during Covid-19, we don’t mean just singers. Actors have it rough, as well. Rachel Kylian told us: “I am an actor in Los Angeles, and all productions have shut down since March 2020. However, I have participated in many acting challenges. I have been auditioning for many projects and am expecting to go back to work very soon.”
Far and away, however, the most popular new outlet for entertainers during Covid-19 has been performing for audiences online, usually over Zoom calls. This has managed to accomplish many things at once: giving the artists an outlet to express themselves as they normally would on a stage while keeping audiences and road crews distant and safe from close human contact.
For this article, we spoke with many performers who have been forced to begin leveraging Zoom and social media to proliferate their art. Willie Greer, the founder of The Product Analyst, told us: “As I have noticed, the entertainment industry puts efforts to observe health protocols and social distancing measures for safety so they can still continue their jobs of serving their audiences and driving the economy. Some theater companies have decided to stream online so the netizens can still watch and connect with them to let them know that the arts are still
operating despite the crisis.”
Dawn Jones of Pressed Fresh PR fully supports the new institution of online entertainment: “The entertainment industries are pivoting to be more inclusive of audiences at home. Virtual events have become a regular thing that I think we will see continue in some form into the future- even when restrictions are lifted. It’s providing musicians a way to connect with fans all over the world in an intimate way right from their homes.”
While the Zoom format has worked wonders almost across the board for many entertainers, the struggles have continued for some. Ryan Neufeld of Vegas Improv Power told us: “We helped run a local Las Vegas theater that just had its 5th anniversary. We taught classes and had shows in improv comedy, clown, sketch comedy, and mime. Unfortunately, with rent being as high as it is, the theater was forced to shut down. A few of us from the theater have pushed forward with a new business that brought improv classes back in an online format for now. After watching the difficult transition many improv shows were having in virtual settings, we tweaked our curriculum, content, and delivery to embrace the Zoom environment rather than trying to force old methods.”
Ryan Neufeld’s statement shows that Zoom has not been a catch-all solution for actors and singers. Performers have sometimes had to modify their approach to the arts but ultimately, as in Neufeld’s case, have shown it is possible to come out stronger.
To that end, magician/mentalist Nolan Webster got into some more details about how he has fared working with online shows. “Entertainers over the past few months have had to adapt to the new landscape known as the virtual stage. Many in the entertainment industry are learning very quickly how to produce content and shows for the online venue. DJs are playing their music for groups online, comedians are doing shows with no audience, and from a personal point, I have developed and been performing Zoom magic shows. Going online has forced many, including myself, to find new material or revisit old material that is conducive for online, learn how to use Zoom, and change marketing strategies to promote online shows. Learning about lighting, USB microphones, blocking, and other TV-style production techniques have become the new normal for most performers. After adapting and adjusting, the final piece is being able to make a living with online shows. Finding the right price for shows is a hot topic, and selling tickets online is a new frontier. Educating customers on what a “virtual Zoom show” looks and feels like and the value in that is the biggest hurdle for some performers and entertainers.”
One of the greatest online-performance success stories we have heard came from Mark Weiser of Shake, Rattle & Roll Pianos. He told us that “Prior to Covid-19, we were playing an average of 20 to 25 shows per week, from coast to coast. Overnight, that number dropped to zero. We had been running a sold-out show in Times Square every Saturday night for 10 years, but that had to be canceled when Broadway shut down. As a result, we have moved our entire operation online, performing live stream shows on Saturday nights. The upside has been that a virtual room has no occupancy limit, and we’ve now done 15 Saturday night shows, drawing thousands of viewers from all over the world. Our fans from every metropolitan center, who have never met one another, have now become friends through the virtual attendance of our shows. Our shows that normally ran three hours now top five hours because no one wants them to end.”
When we speak about the entertainment industry, we aren’t referencing singers and actors exclusively. Radio broadcasters and journalists have also become exasperated at how to continue their day-to-day jobs in the wake of Covid-19. Music journalist Jaime Rodriguez of Jrod Concerts: The Podcast, said: “Since March alone, we have been doing quick video interviews with artists with new records or catching up with music industry folks people should know, or musical legends.”
On the other side of entertainment, journalism are the performers, who often rely on interviews for more exposure. Actor Emily Pokora responded to us: “Over the past few months, I’ve had films and TV series put on hold but have picked up work taping my lines for a new web series that was pieced together with other actors to make the episode with everyone independently working. I’ve also been in a music video shot at home the same way. I continue to do self-taped auditions, attend Zoom acting and stand-up comedy classes, as well as gain publicity through Skype and podcast interviews from home.”
Struggles Are Still Real
Despite the success that many entertainers have had with Zoom performances, the online platform has not been a saving grace for everyone. In particular cases, the Covid-19 shutdown has thrown serious wrenches into operations.
Comic performer Angie McMahon stated: “I am a performer in Chicago where I also teach sketch comedy writing, stand up, and storytelling at The Second City. Because theaters and comedy clubs have been closed and we don’t have a very good idea as to when they will be able to re-open safely, a lot of shows have taken to going online. But it is especially hard for a comedy to translate in a Zoom call where the response is silence and a chat is scrolling alongside your face while people have random side conversations. So I created a Virtual Interactive Live Streaming Comedy Game Show called Wisecrackin.’”
In Angie’s case, the response to comedy not translating well to Zoom resulted in a successful adaptation into another format. In other cases, those efforts to adapt have not gone as well. Bob Lord, CEO of PARMA Recordings, said: “In the United States performance sector, unfortunately, there is generally a passive, wait-it-out posture. Some organizations like the big symphony
orchestras simply do not have other ways to deal with it – they can try to diversify their revenue streams, but those are big ships and hard to turn, especially when the primary business model has been donations and grants for so long.” Regarding online performances, Bob said: “If the virus continues to be resurgent and there is no accompanying relief in terms of unemployment, can audiences be expected to continue to engage in what is, in the eyes of at most, a non-essential service when their own pocketbooks are depleted? Will there be disposable income for the average worker that can be allocated to entertainment?”
Other stories include that of freelance musician Greg Hagger, who works mostly in London’s West End theater district. He stated: “I currently have no opportunity to play live, so I am looking at building my online educational work. This has been a free model up, but I am trying to now release free content.”
Some actors, meanwhile, also have it rough at the moment. Actor, writer, and filmmaker Raeden Greer expressed: “Since Covid-19 has effectively brought film/TV productions to a halt, I’ve been living off residuals and picking up extra money filming corporate videos (with social distancing and masks).”
Others in the entertainment industry simply must remain hopeful for what is to come.
Book Your Online Entertainment Now with Special Guest App
Times are tough for live entertainers in just about every sector, from actors to musicians to comedians and journalists. Thankfully, online audiences have answered the call in many cases, truly responding to the advent of Zoom concerts and comedy shows. It certainly isn’t always where the performers are comfortable, but adaptation has allowed entertainers to thrive under these new circumstances.
Special Guest App is here to help with that. We link up performers with their audiences online. Now, during the age of Covid-19, we are as happy to help as we have ever been. Book your live entertainment now through us.