LIMA — While there’s no stage open in Ohio, musicians have found new audiences by performing on their living room couches.
The live-stream has been around since long before the coronavirus, but the tool has found renewed interest from local artists looking to connect to others and support their professions.
“It’s definitely broadened our audience. People are watching from Colorado and New Mexico,” Musician Kaitlyn Schmit said. “Some of the folks are ones that we know, but a lot of them have been new people people I’ve never met.”
Schmit had just started performing full-time with her Lima-based band — Kaitlyn Schmit and the Move — at the beginning of the year, and while live-streaming hadn’t been a major concern then, the string of performance cancellations since has pushed the band to release some online content.
Schmit said her boyfriend and the band’s bass player, Frank Stemen, helped set up the necessary technical aspects, and now, the two-person ensemble have found audiences of up to 10,000 people watching them live online. In comparison, the group’s biggest show so far featured a crowd of 2,000 tops.
“We didn’t really do that on purpose, but I’ll take it.” Schmit said.
James Adkins, a Findlay-based singer/songwriter, has also been active online since the shutdown. He and a fellow musician launched “The Quarantine Sessions” just as Ohio began sending shutdown orders related to the coronavirus down the line, and the two have stayed busy perfecting their live-stream set-up and holding sessions on his couch as Adkins watches a calendar’s worth of gigs get canceled.
“I had a lot of gigs. I still have a lot of gigs, but week by week, all the ones this month are probably going to be canceled,” Adkins said.
The extra funds provided by the live-stream hasn’t been able to replace the expected income from the gigs, but new online tools have opened up a few new ideas about how he might be able to use live-streams in the future. After the stay-at-home order has been revoked, Adkins said he expects to keep holding the occasional online performance via live-stream.
Part of the appeal is due to the unique way it connects musicians to their audiences. During a live stage performance, feedback is immediate, and musicians like Adkins have to make sure their audiences are engaged by playing the right songs to the crowd. A live-stream, however, is a more intimate performance.
Adkins said he’s less worried about the business side of performance during live-streamed sets, and he’ll choose to play more of his own songs — unless there’s a request from the people watching.
Live-streaming has also helped Lima Symphony Orchestra musicians keep in touch with its audience. LSO Marketing and Education Coordinator Renee Keller said she’s been posting videos from symphony musicians that they’ve been recording at home to try to keep the orchestra’s fans engaged, and many musicians/professors she’s working with have had to adopt the live-stream as a way to teach university students.
Either way, the goal is to get people to continue to engage in music in one shape or form. Keller has also encouraged musicians to share what they’re listening to during the downturn to keep people interested in music and back in the seats when stage performances start back up.
“All the musicians are looking forward to getting back to work when it’s safe and prudent to do so,” Keller said. “One thing that’s become clear: If there’s any question of the value of arts and entertainment before, (the shutdown) shows that they’re relying on them now.”
“I really appreciate all the people that have been supporting me and other local musicians,” Adkins said. “It’s a pretty tough time, but we’ll all get through this together. That’s what America does.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.