Keeping music alive: Musicians turn to streaming to stay connected

Many local musicians are live streaming their performances in order to stay connected during the coronavirus pandemic.

<p>Illustration by Harry Steffenhagen</p>

Harry Steffenhagen

Illustration by Harry Steffenhagen

Meg Bishop

For students at the University of Minnesota, going to see a band or DJ perform live was a staple of a regular weekend just a few weeks ago. When COVID-19 put a halt to all large gatherings, musicians and fans everywhere have had to adapt to continue live music experiences.

“My heart really goes out to all the musicians who are having to cancel gigs and are not able to make an income during this time,” said Erica VonBank, a Minneapolis-based musician. 

VonBank’s band, Johannes & The Secret Life, recently released two new singles and was recording a new album right before the COVID-19 pandemic took a turn for the worse. The band was planning to perform at Aster Cafe on March 14, but like many other concerts, it was postponed. 

“The thing I’m missing most musically right now is not being able to rehearse and perform with my band,” VonBank said. To lessen the burn, she began hosting solo livestream shows on Zoom and has recently been performing over Instagram Live. 

Similarly, Cory’s House, a college house turned music venue, recently live streamed a multi-set DJ show on Youtube Live. The live stream showcased local electronic artists and roommates DJ Jeph Bopsworthy, DJ Overly Sympathetic and DJ Cold Turkey. 

Thor Cramer Bornemann, also known as Minneapolis electronic artist Thor CB, hosted the event. He said the best part about moving a show online is “not having to deal with large groups of people and messes.” Each DJ put on a half-hour show, playing electric keyboards or rapping over prerecorded background beats and sounds.

Local alternative band Early Eyes has also hosted multiple livestreamed concerts with sponsors like the concert tracking app Songkick and the University of Minnesota’s Radio K. 

Big name artists have also jumped on the virtual concert bandwagon — and some are getting creative. Indie singer-songwriter Soccer Mommy set up a livestream show over the online multiplayer game Club Penguin. 

Media platforms have pivoted, now teaming up with artists to help set up showtimes and give music fans a virtual space to see their favorite musicians. VFiles, a pop culture media organization, began an Instagram Live series called “Pass the Aux” featuring popular hip-hop artists and also posts a daily VFiles TV guide sheet for followers to see which artists are scheduled to perform that day. National Public Radio Music also began posting their archived “Tiny Desk Concerts” videos from years past and will continue to release already-taped shows. Live Nation has transformed its platform into an online “Live from Home” concert venue. 

After now hosting its first live stream event, Cory’s House is looking into future plans. 

“Maybe we’ll see if we can have people outside of the house connect to the stream to perform somehow,” Bornemann said. 

VonBank’s next solo show will be hosted via Zoom on April 8 with plans for “Instagram Live collaborations with other artists is in the near future,” she said.

The internet has made it simple for fans to support artists from the comfort of their own homes, whether those musicians are local or not. 

“I feel extremely grateful to have the ability to share my music and stay connected with the people I love,” VonBank said.